Shank expression is sufficient to induce functional dendritic spine synapses in aspiny neurons

J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 6;25(14):3560-70. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4354-04.2005.


Shank proteins assemble glutamate receptors with their intracellular signaling apparatus and cytoskeleton at the postsynaptic density. Whether Shank plays a role in spinogenesis and synaptogenesis remained unclear. Here, we report that knock-down of Shank3/prolinerich synapse-associated protein-2 by RNA interference reduces spine density in hippocampal neurons. Moreover, transgene expression of Shank 3 is sufficient to induce functional dendritic spines in aspiny cerebellar neurons. Transfected Shank protein recruits functional glutamate receptors, increases the number and size of synaptic contacts, and increases amplitude, frequency, and the AMPA component of miniature EPSCs, similar to what is observed during synapse developmental maturation. Mutation/deletion approaches indicate that these effects require interactions of Shank3 with the glutamate receptor complex. Consistent with this observation, chronic treatment with glutamate receptor antagonists alters maturation of the Shank3-induced spines. These results strongly suggest that Shank proteins and the associated glutamate receptors participate in a concerted manner to form spines and functional synapses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western / methods
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Mutagenesis / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Pseudopodia / drug effects
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Transfection / methods
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • NR1 NMDA receptor
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Shank3 protein, mouse
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid