The postsynaptic architecture of excitatory synapses: a more quantitative view

Annu Rev Biochem. 2007:76:823-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.76.060805.160029.


Excitatory (glutamatergic) synapses in the mammalian brain are usually situated on dendritic spines, a postsynaptic microcompartment that also harbors organelles involved in protein synthesis, membrane trafficking, and calcium metabolism. The postsynaptic membrane contains a high concentration of glutamate receptors, associated signaling proteins, and cytoskeletal elements, all assembled by a variety of scaffold proteins into an organized structure called the postsynaptic density (PSD). A complex machine made of hundreds of distinct proteins, the PSD dynamically changes its structure and composition during development and in response to synaptic activity. The molecular size of the PSD and the stoichiometry of many major constituents have been recently measured. The structures of some intact PSD proteins, as well as the spatial arrangement of several proteins within the PSD, have been determined at low resolution by electron microscopy. On the basis of such studies, a more quantitative and geometrically realistic view of PSD architecture is emerging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Dendritic Spines* / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines* / ultrastructure
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins* / chemistry
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Synapses* / physiology
  • Synapses* / ultrastructure


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • postsynaptic density proteins