Actin dynamics in dendritic spines: a form of regulated plasticity at excitatory synapses

Hippocampus. 2000;10(5):555-60. doi: 10.1002/1098-1063(2000)10:5<555::AID-HIPO5>3.0.CO;2-Z.


Dendritic spines form the postsynaptic element at most excitatory synapses in the brain. The spine cytoskeleton consists of actin filaments which, in time-lapse recordings of living neurons expressing actin labeled with green fluorescent protein, can be seen to undergo rapid, dynamic changes. Because actin dynamics are associated with changes in cell shape, these cytoskeletal rearrangements may form a molecular basis for the morphological plasticity at brain synapses. The rapidity of these dynamic events in dendritic spines raises new questions. First, do the changes in actin cytoskeleton that are visible by light microscopy really correspond to changes in spine morphology, or do they represent changes in the relationship between actin and its many binding partners at postsynaptic sites? Second, how are these changes regulated by synaptic transmission? Third, to what extent do these changes occur in organized brain tissue? Answers to these questions are now beginning to emerge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Receptors, Glutamate