ProSAP/Shank proteins - a family of higher order organizing molecules of the postsynaptic density with an emerging role in human neurological disease

J Neurochem. 2002 Jun;81(5):903-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2002.00931.x.


The postsynaptic density (PSD) is a specialized electron-dense structure underneath the postsynaptic plasmamembrane of excitatory synapses. It is thought to anchor and cluster glutamate receptors exactly opposite to the presynaptic neurotransmitter release site. Various efforts to study the molecular structure of the PSD identified several new proteins including membrane receptors, cell adhesion molecules, components of signalling cascades, cytoskeletal elements and adaptor proteins with scaffolding functions to interconnect these PSD components. The characterization of a novel adaptor protein family, the ProSAPs or Shanks, sheds new light on the basic structural organization of the PSD. ProSAPs/Shanks are multidomain proteins that interact directly or indirectly with receptors of the postsynaptic membrane including NMDA-type and metabotropic glutamate receptors, and the actin-based cytoskeleton. These interactions suggest that ProSAP/Shanks may be important scaffolding molecules of the PSD with a crucial role in the assembly of the PSD during synaptogenesis, in synaptic plasticity and in the regulation of dendritic spine morphology. Moreover the analysis of a patient with 22q13.3 distal deletion syndrome revealed a balanced translocation with a breakpoint in the human ProSAP2/Shank3 gene. This ProSAP2/Shank3 haploinsufficiency may cause a syndrome that is characterized by severe expressive language delay, mild mental retardation and minor facial dysmorphisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing*
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • SHANK2 protein, human
  • SHANK3 protein, human
  • Shank1 protein, rat
  • Shank2 protein, rat