Dendritic spines are discrete membrane protrusions from dendritic shafts where the large majority of excitatory synapses are located. Their highly heterogeneous morphology is thought to be the morphological basis for synaptic plasticity. Electron microscopy and time-lapse imaging studies have suggested that the shape and number of spines can change after long-term potentiation (LTP), although there is no evidence that morphological changes are necessary for LTP induction and maintenance. An increasing number of proteins have been found to be morphogens for dendritic spines and provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating spine formation and morphology.
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