Excitatory synapses are formed on dendritic spines, postsynaptic structures that change during development and in response to synaptic activity. Once mature, however, spines can remain stable for many months. The molecular mechanisms that control the formation and elimination, motility and stability, and size and shape of dendritic spines are being revealed. Multiple signaling pathways, particularly those involving Rho and Ras family small GTPases, converge on the actin cytoskeleton to regulate spine morphology and dynamics bidirectionally. Numerous cell surface receptors, scaffold proteins and actin binding proteins are concentrated in spines and engaged in spine morphogenesis.