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Trends Cell Biol. 2009 May;19(5):218-27. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2009.02.004. Epub 2009 Mar 28.

Spine microdomains for postsynaptic signaling and plasticity.

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Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Changes in the molecular composition and signaling properties of excitatory glutamatergic synapses onto dendritic spines mediate learning-related plasticity in the mammalian brain. This molecular adaptation serves as the most celebrated cell biological model for learning and memory. Within their micron-sized dimensions, dendritic spines restrict the diffusion of signaling molecules and spatially confine the activation of signal transduction pathways. Much of this local regulation occurs by spatial compartmentalization of glutamate receptors. Here, we review recently identified cell biological mechanisms regulating glutamate receptor mobility within individual dendritic spines. We discuss the emerging functions of glutamate receptors residing within sub-spine microdomains and propose a model for distinct signaling platforms with specialized functions in synaptic plasticity.

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