Distinct structural and ionotropic roles of NMDA receptors in controlling spine and synapse stability.
ABSTRACT: NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) play a central role in the rapid regulation of synaptic transmission, but their contribution to the long-term stabilization of glutamatergic synapses is unknown. We find that, in hippocampal pyramidal neurons in rat organotypic slices, pharmacological blockade of NMDARs does not affect synapse formation and dendritic spine growth but does increase the motility of spines. Physical loss of synaptic NMDARs induced by RNA interference against the NR1 subunit of the receptor also increases the motility of spines. Furthermore, knock-down of NMDARs, but not their pharmacological block, destabilizes spine structure and over time leads to loss of spines and excitatory synapses. Maintenance of normal spine density requires the coexpression of two specific splice isoforms of the NR1 subunit that contain the C-terminal C2 cassette. Thus, although ionotropic properties of NMDARs induce synaptic plasticity, it is the physical interactions of the C-tail of the receptor that mediate the long-term stabilization of synapses and spines.
Project description:NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) guide the activity-dependent remodeling of excitatory synapses and associated dendritic spines during critical periods of postnatal brain development. Whereas mature NMDARs composed of GluN1 and GluN2 subunits mediate synapse plasticity and promote spine growth and stabilization, juvenile NMDARs containing GluN3A subunits are thought to inhibit these processes via yet unknown mechanisms. Here, we report that GluN3A binds G protein-coupled receptor kinase-interacting protein (GIT1), a postsynaptic scaffold that assembles actin regulatory complexes, including the Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor ?PIX, to promote Rac1 activation in spines. Binding to GluN3A limits the synaptic localization of GIT1 and its ability to complex ?PIX, leading to decreased Rac1 activation and reduced spine density and size in primary cultured neurons. Conversely, knocking out GluN3A favors the formation of GIT1/?PIX complexes and increases the activation of Rac1 and its main effector p21-activated kinase. We further show that binding of GluN3A to GIT1 is regulated by synaptic activity, a response that might restrict the negative regulatory effects of GluN3A on actin signaling to inactive synapses. Our results identify inhibition of Rac1/p21-activated kinase actin signaling pathways as an activity-dependent mechanism mediating the inhibitory effects of GluN3A on spine morphogenesis.
Project description:Excitatory synapses on mammalian principal neurons are typically formed onto dendritic spines, which consist of a bulbous head separated from the parent dendrite by a thin neck. Although activation of voltage-gated channels in the spine and stimulus-evoked constriction of the spine neck can influence synaptic signals, the contribution of electrical filtering by the spine neck to basal synaptic transmission is largely unknown. Here we use spine and dendrite calcium (Ca) imaging combined with 2-photon laser photolysis of caged glutamate to assess the impact of electrical filtering imposed by the spine morphology on synaptic Ca transients. We find that in apical spines of CA1 hippocampal neurons, the spine neck creates a barrier to the propagation of current, which causes a voltage drop and results in spatially inhomogeneous activation of voltage-gated Ca channels (VGCCs) on a micron length scale. Furthermore, AMPA and NMDA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs and NMDARs, respectively) that are colocalized on individual spine heads interact to produce two kinetically and mechanistically distinct phases of synaptically evoked Ca influx. Rapid depolarization of the spine triggers a brief and large Ca current whose amplitude is regulated in a graded manner by the number of open AMPARs and whose duration is terminated by the opening of small conductance Ca-activated potassium (SK) channels. A slower phase of Ca influx is independent of AMPAR opening and is determined by the number of open NMDARs and the post-stimulus potential in the spine. Biphasic synaptic Ca influx only occurs when AMPARs and NMDARs are coactive within an individual spine. These results demonstrate that the morphology of dendritic spines endows associated synapses with specialized modes of signaling and permits the graded and independent control of multiple phases of synaptic Ca influx.
Project description:In the cerebellum, lamellar Bergmann glial (BG) appendages wrap tightly around almost every Purkinje cell dendritic spine. The function of this glial ensheathment of spines is not entirely understood. The development of ensheathment begins near the onset of synaptogenesis, when motility of both BG processes and dendritic spines are high. By the end of the synaptogenic period, ensheathment is complete and motility of the BG processes decreases, correlating with the decreased motility of dendritic spines. We therefore have hypothesized that ensheathment is intimately involved in capping synaptogenesis, possibly by stabilizing synapses. To test this hypothesis, we misexpressed GluR2 in an adenoviral vector in BG towards the end of the synaptogenic period, rendering the BG ?-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs) Ca2+-impermeable and causing glial sheath retraction. We then measured the resulting spine motility, spine density and synapse number. Although we found that decreasing ensheathment at this time does not alter spine motility, we did find a significant increase in both synaptic pucta and dendritic spine density. These results indicate that consistent spine coverage by BG in the cerebellum is not necessary for stabilization of spine dynamics, but is very important in the regulation of synapse number.
Project description:During early postnatal development in the rat hippocampus, synaptogenesis occurs in parallel with a developmental switch in the subunit composition of NMDA receptors from NR2B to NR2A. It is unclear how this switch affects the process of synaptogenesis, synapse maturation, and synapse stabilization. We investigated the role of NR2 subunits in synaptogenesis during the period in which expression and synaptic incorporation of the NR2A protein begins through the time when it reaches adult levels. We found that early expression of NR2A in organotypic hippocampal slices reduces the number of synapses and the volume and dynamics of spines. In contrast, overexpression of NR2B does not affect the normal number and growth of synapses; however, it does increase spine motility, adding and retracting spines at a higher rate. The C terminus of NR2B, and specifically its ability to bind CaMKII, is sufficient to allow proper synapse formation and maturation. Conversely, the C terminus of NR2A was sufficient to stop the development of synapse number and spine growth. Our results indicate that the ratio of synaptic NR2B over NR2A controls spine motility and synaptogenesis, and suggest a structural role for the intracellular C terminus of NR2 in recruiting the signaling and scaffolding molecules necessary for proper synaptogenesis.
Project description:Dynamic remodeling of spiny synapses is crucial for cortical circuit development, refinement and plasticity, whereas abnormal morphogenesis is associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. We found that activation of Epac2, a PKA-independent cAMP target and Rap guanine-nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), in cultured rat cortical neurons induced spine shrinkage, increased spine motility, removed synaptic GluR2/3-containing AMPA receptors and depressed excitatory transmission, whereas its inhibition promoted spine enlargement and stabilization. Epac2 was required for dopamine D1-like receptor-dependent spine shrinkage and GluR2 removal from spines. Epac2 interaction with neuroligin promoted its membrane recruitment and enhanced its GEF activity. Rare missense mutations in the EPAC2 (also known as RAPGEF4) gene, previously found in individuals with autism, affected basal and neuroligin-stimulated GEF activity, dendritic Rap signaling, synaptic protein distribution and spine morphology. Thus, we identify a previously unknown mechanism that promotes dynamic remodeling and depression of spiny synapses, disruption of which may contribute to some aspects of disease.
Project description:Excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity are critically modulated by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs). Activation of NMDARs elevates intracellular Ca(2+) affecting several downstream signaling pathways that involve Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). Importantly, NMDAR activation triggers CaMKII translocation to synaptic sites. NMDAR activation failed to induce Ca(2+) responses in hippocampal neurons lacking the mandatory NMDAR subunit NR1, and no EGFP-CaMKIIalpha translocation was observed. In cells solely expressing Ca(2+)-impermeable NMDARs containing NR1(N598R)-mutant subunits, prolonged NMDA application elevated internal Ca(2+) to the same degree as in wild-type controls, yet failed to translocate CaMKIIalpha. Brief local NMDA application evoked smaller Ca(2+) transients in dendritic spines of mutant compared to wild-type cells. CaMKIIalpha mutants that increase binding to synaptic sites, namely CaMKII-T286D and CaMKII-TT305/306VA, rescued the translocation in NR1(N598R) cells in a glutamate receptor-subtype-specific manner. We conclude that CaMKII translocation requires Ca(2+) entry directly through NMDARs, rather than other Ca(2+) sources activated by NMDARs. Together with the requirement for activated, possibly ligand-bound, NMDARs as CaMKII binding partners, this suggests that synaptic CaMKII accumulation is an input-specific signaling event.
Project description:Excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain exhibit diverse functional properties in transmission and plasticity. Directly visualizing the structural correlates of such functional heterogeneity is often hindered by the diffraction-limited resolution of conventional optical imaging techniques. Here, we used super-resolution stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to resolve structurally distinct excitatory synapses formed on dendritic shafts and spines. The majority of these shaft synapses contained <i>N</i>-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) but not α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs), suggesting that they were functionally silent. During development, as more spine synapses formed with increasing sizes and expression of AMPARs and NMDARs, shaft synapses exhibited moderate reduction in density with largely unchanged sizes and receptor expression. Furthermore, upon glycine stimulation to induce chemical long-term potentiation (cLTP), the previously silent shaft synapses became functional shaft synapses by recruiting more AMPARs than did spine synapses. Thus, silent shaft synapse may represent a synaptic state in developing neurons with enhanced capacity of activity-dependent potentiation.
Project description:In hippocampal pyramidal cells, a small subset of dendritic spines contain endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In large spines, ER frequently forms a spine apparatus, while smaller spines contain just a single tubule of smooth ER. Here we show that the ER visits dendritic spines in a non-random manner, targeting spines during periods of high synaptic activity. When we blocked ER motility using a dominant negative approach against myosin V, spine synapses became stronger compared to controls. We were not able to further potentiate these maxed-out synapses, but long-term depression (LTD) was readily induced by low-frequency stimulation. We conclude that the brief ER visits to active spines have the important function of preventing runaway potentiation of individual spine synapses, keeping most of them at an intermediate strength level from which both long-term potentiation (LTP) and LTD are possible.
Project description:Adult-born neurons adjust olfactory bulb (OB) network functioning in response to changing environmental conditions by the formation, retraction and/or stabilization of new synaptic contacts. While some changes in the odour environment are rapid, the synaptogenesis of adult-born neurons occurs over a longer time scale. It remains unknown how the bulbar network functions when rapid and persistent changes in environmental conditions occur but when new synapses have not been formed. Here we reveal a new form of structural remodelling where mature spines of adult-born but not early-born neurons relocate in an activity-dependent manner. Principal cell activity induces directional growth of spine head filopodia (SHF) followed by spine relocation. Principal cell-derived glutamate and BDNF regulate SHF motility and directional spine relocation, respectively; and spines with SHF are selectively preserved following sensory deprivation. Our three-dimensional model suggests that spine relocation allows fast reorganization of OB network with functional consequences for odour information processing.
Project description:Cortical dendritic spines are highly motile postsynaptic structures onto which most excitatory synapses are formed. It has been postulated that spine dynamics might reflect synaptic plasticity of cortical neurons. To test this hypothesis, we have investigated spine dynamics during the critical period in mouse visual cortex in vivo with and without sensory deprivation. The motility of spines on apical dendrites of layer 5 neurons was assayed by time-lapse two-photon microscopy. Spines were motile at the ages examined, postnatal days (P)21-P42, although motility decreased between P21 and P28 and then remained stable through P42. Binocular deprivation from before the time of eye-opening up-regulated spine motility during the peak of the critical period (P28), without affecting average spine length, class distribution, or density. Deprivation at the start of the critical period had no effect on spine motility, whereas continued deprivation through the end of the critical period appeared to reduce spine motility slightly. We conclude that spine motility might be involved in critical-period plasticity and that reduction of activity during the critical period enhances spine dynamics.