Role of actin cytoskeleton in dendritic spine morphogenesis

Neurochem Int. Jul-Sep 2007;51(2-4):92-104. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2007.04.029. Epub 2007 May 13.


Dendritic spines are the postsynaptic receptive regions of most excitatory synapses, and their morphological plasticity play a pivotal role in higher brain functions, such as learning and memory. The dynamics of spine morphology is due to the actin cytoskeleton concentrated highly in spines. Filopodia, which are thin and headless protrusions, are thought to be precursors of dendritic spines. Drebrin, a spine-resident side-binding protein of filamentous actin (F-actin), is responsible for recruiting F-actin and PSD-95 into filopodia, and is suggested to govern spine morphogenesis. Interestingly, some recent studies on neurological disorders accompanied by cognitive deficits suggested that the loss of drebrin from dendritic spines is a common pathognomonic feature of synaptic dysfunction. In this review, to understand the importance of actin-binding proteins in spine morphogenesis, we first outline the well-established knowledge pertaining to the actin cytoskeleton in non-neuronal cells, such as the mechanism of regulation by small GTPases, the equilibrium between globular actin (G-actin) and F-actin, and the distinct roles of various actin-binding proteins. Then, we review the dynamic changes in the localization of drebrin during synaptogenesis and in response to glutamate receptor activation. Because side-binding proteins are located upstream of the regulatory pathway for actin organization via other actin-binding proteins, we discuss the significance of drebrin in the regulatory mechanism of spine morphology through the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. In addition, we discuss the possible involvement of an actin-myosin interaction in the morphological plasticity of spines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Actins / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Monomeric GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Actins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • drebrins
  • Monomeric GTP-Binding Proteins