Activity induced changes in the distribution of Shanks at hippocampal synapses

Neuroscience. 2010 Jun 16;168(1):11-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.03.041. Epub 2010 Mar 25.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SHANK1 protein, mouse
  • Shank1 protein, rat
  • Shank2 protein, mouse
  • Shank2 protein, rat
  • Calcium