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Mol Neurobiol. 2010 Oct;42(2):143-50. doi: 10.1007/s12035-010-8145-1. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Regulation of calpain-2 in neurons: implications for synaptic plasticity.

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Neuroscience Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2520, USA.


The family of calcium-dependent neutral proteases, calpains, was discovered more than 30 years ago, but their functional roles in the nervous system under physiological or pathological conditions still remain unclear. Although calpain was proposed to participate in synaptic plasticity and in learning and memory in the early 1980s, the precise mechanism regarding its activation, its target(s) and the functional consequences of its activation have remained controversial. A major issue has been the identification of roles of the two major calpain isoforms present in the brain, calpain-1 and calpain-2, and the calcium requirement for their activation, which exceeds levels that could be reached intracellularly under conditions leading to changes in synaptic efficacy. In this review, we discussed the features of calpains that make them ideally suited to link certain patterns of presynaptic activity to the structural modifications of dendritic spines that could underlie synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. We then summarize recent findings that provide critical answers to the various questions raised by the initial hypothesis, and that further support the idea that, in brain, calpain-2 plays critical roles in developmental and adult synaptic plasticity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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