Synaptic activities alter synaptic strengths at the axospinous junctions, and such changes are often accompanied by changes in the size of the postsynaptic spines. We have been exploring the idea that drebrin A, a neuron-specific actin-binding protein localized on the postsynaptic side of excitatory synapses, may be a molecule that links synaptic activity to the shape and content of spines. Here, we performed electron microscopic immunocytochemistry with the nondiffusible gold label to explore the relationship among levels of drebrin A, the NR2A subunit of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, and the size of spines in the perirhinal cortex of adult mouse brains. In contrast to the membranous localization within neonatal spines, most immunogold particles for drebrin A were localized to the cytoplasmic core region of spines in mature spines. This distribution suggests that drebrin within adult spines may reorganize the F-actin network at the spine core, in addition to its known neonatal role in spine formation. Drebrin A-immunopositive (DIP) spines exhibited larger spine head areas and longer postsynaptic densities (PSDs) than drebrin A-immunonegative (DIN) spines (P < 0.001). Furthermore, spine head area and PSD lengths correlated positively with drebrin A levels (r = 0.47 and 0.40). The number of synaptic NR2A immunolabels was also higher in DIP spines than in DIN spines, whereas their densities per unit lengths of PSD were not significantly different. These differences between the DIP and the DIN spines indicate that spine sizes and synaptic protein composition of mature brains are regulated, at least in part, by drebrin A levels.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.