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Neuron. 2005 May 19;46(4):609-22.

Spine-neck geometry determines NMDA receptor-dependent Ca2+ signaling in dendrites.

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Department of Cell Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences and Graduate University of Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI), Myodaiji, Okazaki 444-8787, Japan.


Increases in cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) mediated by NMDA-sensitive glutamate receptors (NMDARs) are important for synaptic plasticity. We studied a wide variety of dendritic spines on rat CA1 pyramidal neurons in acute hippocampal slices. Two-photon uncaging and Ca2+ imaging revealed that NMDAR-mediated currents increased with spine-head volume and that even the smallest spines contained a significant number of NMDARs. The fate of Ca2+ that entered spine heads through NMDARs was governed by the shape (length and radius) of the spine neck. Larger spines had necks that permitted greater efflux of Ca2+ into the dendritic shaft, whereas smaller spines manifested a larger increase in [Ca2+]i within the spine compartment as a result of a smaller Ca2+ flux through the neck. Spine-neck geometry is thus an important determinant of spine Ca2+ signaling, allowing small spines to be the preferential sites for isolated induction of long-term potentiation.

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