The microtubule-associated protein tau is predominantly localized in the axonal compartment over the entire length of the axon in neurons. The mechanisms responsible for the localization of tau in axons at long distance from the cell body are not properly understood. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization, we show that tau mRNA is present in the central and distal parts of the axons of cultured rat cortical neurons. Axonal tau mRNA is associated with granules which are distributed throughout the entire length of the axon, including the growth cone. We also show that tau mRNA-containing axonal particles are associated with elongation factor 1A, a component of the protein translation machinery. The presence of tau mRNA in axons might be at least part of the process by which tau is localized to distal axons.