Dendritic spines contain a family of abundant scaffolding proteins known as Shanks, but little is known about how their distributions might change during synaptic activity. Here, pre-embedding immunogold electron microscopy is used to localize Shanks in synapses from cultured hippocampal neurons. We find that Shanks are preferentially located at postsynaptic densities (PSDs) as well as in a filamentous network near the PSD, extending up to 120 nm from the postsynaptic membrane. Application of sub-type specific antibodies shows that Shank2 is typically concentrated at and near PSDs while Shank1 is, in addition, distributed throughout the spine head. Depolarization with high K+ for 2 min causes transient, reversible translocation of Shanks towards the PSD that is dependent on extracellular Ca2+. The amount of activity-induced redistribution and subsequent recovery is pronounced for Shank1 but less so for Shank2. Thus, Shank1 appears to be a dynamic element within the spine, whose translocation could be involved in activity-induced, transient structural changes, while Shank2 appears to be a more stable element positioned at the interface of the PSD with the spine cytoplasm.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.