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Nat Neurosci. 2004 Oct;7(10):1104-12. Epub 2004 Sep 7.

Rapid and persistent modulation of actin dynamics regulates postsynaptic reorganization underlying bidirectional plasticity.

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RIKEN-MIT Neuroscience Research Center, The Picower Center for Learning and Memory, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The synapse is a highly organized cellular specialization whose structure and composition are reorganized, both positively and negatively, depending on the strength of input signals. The mechanisms orchestrating these changes are not well understood. A plausible locus for the reorganization of synapse components and structure is actin, because it serves as both cytoskeleton and scaffold for synapses and exists in a dynamic equilibrium between F-actin and G-actin that is modulated bidirectionally by cellular signaling. Using a new FRET-based imaging technique to monitor F-actin/G-actin equilibrium, we show here that tetanic stimulation causes a rapid, persistent shift of actin equilibrium toward F-actin in the dendritic spines of rat hippocampal neurons. This enlarges the spines and increases postsynaptic binding capacity. In contrast, prolonged low-frequency stimulation shifts the equilibrium toward G-actin, resulting in a loss of postsynaptic actin and of structure. This bidirectional regulation of actin is actively involved in protein assembly and disassembly and provides a substrate for bidirectional synaptic plasticity.

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