Two-photon Na+ imaging in spines and fine dendrites of central neurons

Pflugers Arch. 1999 Dec;439(1-2):201-7. doi: 10.1007/s004249900123.


Dendritic spines are assumed to be the smallest units of neuronal integration. Because of their miniature size, however, many of their functional properties are still unclear. New insights in spine physiology have been provided by two-photon laser-scanning microscopy which allows fluorescence imaging with high spatial resolution and minimal photodamage. For example, two-photon imaging has been employed successfully for the measurement of activity-induced calcium transients in individual spines. Here, we describe the first application of two-photon imaging to measure Na+ transients in spines and dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons in hippocampal slices. Whole-cell patch-clamped neurons were loaded with the Na(+)-indicator dye SBFI (sodium-binding benzofuran-isophthalate). In situ calibration of SBFI fluorescence with ionophores enabled the determination of the actual magnitude of the [Na+]i changes. We found that back-propagating action potentials (APs) evoked Na+ transients throughout the proximal part of the dendritic tree and adjacent spines. The action-potential-induced [Na+]i transients reached values of 4 mM for a train of 20 APs and monotonically decayed with a time constant of several seconds. These results represent the first demonstration of activity-induced Na+ accumulation in spines. Our results demonstrate that two-photon Na+ imaging represents a powerful tool for extending our knowledge on Na+ signaling in fine cellular subcompartments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Benzofurans
  • Calibration
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Ethers, Cyclic
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Photons
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism


  • Benzofurans
  • Ethers, Cyclic
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Sodium Channels
  • sodium-binding benzofuran isophthalate
  • Sodium