From form to function: calcium compartmentalization in dendritic spines

Nat Neurosci. 2000 Jul;3(7):653-9. doi: 10.1038/76609.


Dendritic spines compartmentalize calcium, and this could be their main function. We review experimental work on spine calcium dynamics. Calcium influx into spines is mediated by calcium channels and by NMDA and AMPA receptors and is followed by fast diffusional equilibration within the spine head. Calcium decay kinetics are controlled by slower diffusion through the spine neck and by spine calcium pumps. Calcium release occurs in spines, although its role is controversial. Finally, the endogenous calcium buffers in spines remain unknown. Thus, spines are calcium compartments because of their morphologies and local influx and extrusion mechanisms. These studies highlight the richness and heterogeneity of pathways that regulate calcium accumulations in spines and the close relationship between the morphology and function of the spine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Calcium