Synapses with a segmented, completely partitioned postsynaptic density express more AMPA receptors than other axospinous synaptic junctions

Neuroscience. 2004;125(3):615-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.02.025.


Axospinous perforated synapses of one morphological subtype exhibit multiple transmission zones, each one being formed by an axon terminal protrusion apposing a postsynaptic density (PSD) segment and separated from others by complete spine partitions. Such segmented, completely partitioned (SCP) synapses have been implicated in synaptic plasticity and postulated to be exceptionally efficacious. The present study explored the validity of this supposition. Postembedding immunogold electron microscopy was used for quantifying the postsynaptic AMPA receptor (AMPAR) expression, which is widely regarded as a major determinant of synaptic efficacy. Various subtypes of axospinous synapses were examined in the rat CA1 stratum radiatum. The results showed that the number of immunogold particles for AMPARs in SCP synapses markedly and significantly exceeded that in other perforated subtypes (by 101% on the average) and in nonperforated immunopositive synapses (by 1086%). Moreover, the particle number per single PSD segment, each of which also contained NMDA receptors, was significantly higher than that per nonperforated PSD (by 485%). SCP synapses also exhibited a higher particle density per unit PSD area, as well as a larger overall PSD area as compared with other synaptic subtypes. Analysis of covariance revealed that the high AMPAR expression in SCP synapses was related to the segmented PSD configuration, not only to the PSD size. Moreover, the subpopulations of SCP and other perforated synapses with either overlapping or equal PSD sizes differed in AMPAR content and concentration, with both measures being significantly higher in SCP synapses. Thus, the elevated AMPAR expression in SCP synapses is associated with the presence of separate PSD segments, not only with their large PSD area. These findings are consistent with the idea that SCP synapses have a relatively greater efficacy and may support maximal levels of synaptic enhancement characteristic of certain forms of synaptic plasticity such as the early LTP phase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Synapses / classification
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Membranes / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid