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J Cell Biol. 2013 Jul 8;202(1):145-61. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201302071.

Local palmitoylation cycles define activity-regulated postsynaptic subdomains.

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Division of Membrane Physiology, Department of Cell Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, Aichi 444-8787, Japan.


Distinct PSD-95 clusters are primary landmarks of postsynaptic densities (PSDs), which are specialized membrane regions for synapses. However, the mechanism that defines the locations of PSD-95 clusters and whether or how they are reorganized inside individual dendritic spines remains controversial. Because palmitoylation regulates PSD-95 membrane targeting, we combined a conformation-specific recombinant antibody against palmitoylated PSD-95 with live-cell super-resolution imaging and discovered subsynaptic nanodomains composed of palmitoylated PSD-95 that serve as elementary units of the PSD. PSD-95 in nanodomains underwent continuous de/repalmitoylation cycles driven by local palmitoylating activity, ensuring the maintenance of compartmentalized PSD-95 clusters within individual spines. Plasma membrane targeting of DHHC2 palmitoyltransferase rapidly recruited PSD-95 to the plasma membrane and proved essential for postsynaptic nanodomain formation. Furthermore, changes in synaptic activity rapidly reorganized PSD-95 nano-architecture through plasma membrane-inserted DHHC2. Thus, the first genetically encoded antibody sensitive to palmitoylation reveals an instructive role of local palmitoylation machinery in creating activity-responsive PSD-95 nanodomains, contributing to the PSD (re)organization.

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