Dendritic spines are small protrusions on neuronal dendrites and the major target of the excitatory inputs in mammalian brains. Cultured neurons and brain slices are important tools in studying the biochemical and cellular properties of dendritic spines. During the processes of immunocytochemical studies of neurons and the preparation of brain slices, neurons were often kept at temperatures lower than 37 degrees C for varied lengths of time. This study sought to investigate whether and how cold treatment would affect the protein composition of dendritic spines. The results indicated that upon cold treatment four postsynaptic proteins, namely, alpha,beta-tubulins, calcium, calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIalpha, and cytoplasmic dynein heavy chain and microtubule-associated protein 2, but not PSD-95 or AMPA receptors, exited from the majority of dendritic spines of cultured rat hippocampal neurons in a Gd(3+)-sensitive manner. The cold-induced exit of tubulins from dendritic spines was further found to be an energy-dependent process involving the activation of Gd(3+)-sensitive calcium channels and ryanodine receptors. The results thus indicate that changes in temperature, calcium concentration, and energy supply of the medium surrounding neurons would affect the protein composition of the dendritic spines and conceivably the protein composition of the subcellular organizations, such as the postsynaptic density, in the cytoplasm of dendritic spines.
2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.