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Nat Neurosci. 2004 Apr;7(4):357-63. Epub 2004 Mar 21.

Stability of dendritic spines and synaptic contacts is controlled by alpha N-catenin.

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RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, 2-2-3 Minatojima-Minamimachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0047, Japan.


Morphological plasticity of dendritic spines and synapses is thought to be crucial for their physiological functions. Here we show that alpha N-catenin, a linker between cadherin adhesion receptors and the actin cytoskeleton, is essential for stabilizing dendritic spines in rodent hippocampal neurons in culture. In the absence of alpha N-catenin, spine heads were abnormally motile, actively protruding filopodia from their synaptic contact sites. Conversely, alpha N-catenin overexpression in dendrites reduced spine turnover, causing an increase in spine and synapse density. Tetrodotoxin (TTX), a neural activity blocker, suppressed the synaptic accumulation of alpha N-catenin, whereas bicuculline, a GABA antagonist, promoted it. Furthermore, excess alpha N-catenin rendered spines resistant to the TTX treatment. These results suggest that alpha N-catenin is a key regulator for the stability of synaptic contacts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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