Activation of Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II within post-synaptic dendritic spines of cultured hippocampal neurons

J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 1;275(35):27165-71. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M003751200.


To understand the cell signaling of protein kinases, it is essential to monitor their activity in each of the subcellular compartments. Here we developed a method to visualize the activities of Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) in the cytoplasm, plasma membrane, and nucleus, separately, by utilizing targeted phosphorylation motifs and phosphorylation-specific antibodies. This approach was used to monitor the activities of post-synaptic CaMKII in cultured hippocampal neurons. Strong stimulation of the neurons by N-methyl-d-aspartate led to global activations of CaMKII in the cell bodies and dendrites. On the other hand, weak stimulation by removal of Mg(2+) block of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors induced CaMKII signaling localized within single dendritic spines. Post-synaptic CaMKII is thought to modify synaptic efficiency. The present data for the first time demonstrate the activation of CaMKII localized within single dendritic spines and are consistent with the notion that synaptic efficiency is modified by CaMKII in single or multiple spine level depending on the strength of receptor activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Primers
  • Dendrites / enzymology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / enzymology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organelles / enzymology
  • Rats
  • Synapses / enzymology*


  • DNA Primers
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases