Dendritic spines are small protrusions off the dendrite that receive excitatory synaptic input. Spines vary in size, likely correlating with the strength of the synapses they form. In the developing brain, spines show highly dynamic behavior thought to facilitate the formation of new synaptic contacts. Recent studies have illuminated the numerous molecules regulating spine development, many of which converge on the regulation of actin filaments. In addition, interactions with glial cells are emerging as important regulators of spine morphology. In many cases, spine morphogenesis, plasticity, and maintenance also depend on synaptic activity, as shown by recent studies demonstrating changes in spine dynamics and maintenance with altered sensory experience.
Copyright 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.