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Neuroscientist. 2010 Apr;16(2):125-31. doi: 10.1177/1073858409355829.

The spine apparatus, synaptopodin, and dendritic spine plasticity.

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Department of Neurobiology, The Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel.


The spine apparatus (SA) is an essential component of mature dendritic spines of cortical and hippocampal neurons, yet its functions are still enigmatic. Synaptopodin (SP), an actin-binding protein, colocalizes with the SA. Hippocampal neurons in SP-knockout mice lack SA, and they express lower LTP. SP probably plays a role in synaptic plasticity, but only recently it is being linked mechanistically to synaptic functions. These authors and others have studied endogenous and transfected SP in dendritic spines of cultured hippocampal neurons. They found that spines containing SP generate twice as large responses to flash photolysis of caged glutamate than SP-negative ones. An N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-mediated chemical LTP caused accumulation of GFP-GluR1 in spine heads of control but not of shRNA transfected, SP-deficient neurons. SP is linked to calcium stores, because their pharmacological blockade eliminated SP-related enhancement of glutamate responses. Furthermore, release of calcium from stores produces an SP-dependent delivery of GluR1 into spines. Thus, SP plays a crucial role in the calcium store-associated ability of neurons to undergo long-term plasticity.

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