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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Dec;1832(12):2257-63. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2013.08.012. Epub 2013 Sep 6.

Structural plasticity of dendritic spines: the underlying mechanisms and its dysregulation in brain disorders.

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Division of Life Science, Molecular Neuroscience Center and State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.


Dendritic spines are specialized structures on neuronal processes where the majority of excitatory synapses are localized. Spines are highly dynamic, and their stabilization and morphology are influenced by synaptic activity. This extrinsic regulation of spine morphogenesis underlies experience-dependent brain development and information storage within the brain circuitry. In this review, we summarize recent findings that demonstrate the phenomenon of activity-dependent structural plasticity and the molecular mechanisms by which synaptic activity sculpt neuronal connections. Impaired structural plasticity is associated with perturbed brain function in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Information from the mechanistic studies therefore provides important insights into the design of therapeutic strategies for these brain disorders.


BDNF; Dendritic spine; Local protein synthesis; NMDA receptor; Rho GTPase; Synaptic plasticity

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