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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 9;102(32):11551-6. Epub 2005 Aug 1.

Mass of the postsynaptic density and enumeration of three key molecules.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, 36 Convent Drive, MSC 4062, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The total molecular mass of individual postsynaptic densities (PSDs) isolated from rat forebrain was measured by scanning transmission EM. PSDs had a mean diameter of 360 nm and molecular mass of 1.10 +/- 0.36 GDa. Because the mass represents the sum of the molecular masses of all of the molecules comprising a PSD, it becomes possible to derive the number of copies of each protein, once its relative mass contribution is known. Mass contributions of PSD-95, synapse-associated protein (SAP)97, and alpha-Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) were determined by quantitative gel electrophoresis of PSD fractions. The number of PSD-95 molecules per average PSD, contributing 2.3% of the mass of the PSD, was calculated to be 300, whereas the number of SAP97 molecules, contributing 0.9% of the mass of the PSD, was 90. The alpha-CaMKII holoenzymes, which contribute 6% of the mass when brains are homogenized within 2 min of interrupting blood flow, have 80 holoenzymes associated with a typical PSD. When blood flow is interrupted 15 min before homogenization, the average mass of PSDs increases by approximately 40%. The additional alpha-CaMKII associated with PSDs accounts for up to 20% of this mass increase, representing the addition of 100-200 alpha-CaMKII holoenzymes.

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