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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 22;110(4):E305-12. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1214705110. Epub 2012 Dec 26.

Synapse-specific and size-dependent mechanisms of spine structural plasticity accompanying synaptic weakening.

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Center for Neuroscience, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Refinement of neural circuits in the mammalian cerebral cortex shapes brain function during development and in the adult. However, the signaling mechanisms underlying the synapse-specific shrinkage and loss of spiny synapses when neural circuits are remodeled remain poorly defined. Here, we show that low-frequency glutamatergic activity at individual dendritic spines leads to synapse-specific synaptic weakening and spine shrinkage on CA1 neurons in the hippocampus. We found that shrinkage of individual spines in response to low-frequency glutamate uncaging is saturable, reversible, and requires NMDA receptor activation. Notably, shrinkage of large spines additionally requires signaling through metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors (IP(3)Rs), supported by higher levels of mGluR signaling activity in large spines. Our results support a model in which signaling through both NMDA receptors and mGluRs is required to drive activity-dependent synaptic weakening and spine shrinkage at large, mature dendritic spines when neural circuits undergo experience-dependent modification.

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