The neuronal K-Cl cotransporter KCC2 influences postsynaptic AMPA receptor content and lateral diffusion in dendritic spines

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 13;108(37):15474-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107893108. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


The K-Cl cotransporter KCC2 plays an essential role in neuronal chloride homeostasis, and thereby influences the efficacy and polarity of GABA signaling. Although KCC2 is expressed throughout the somatodendritic membrane, it is remarkably enriched in dendritic spines, which host most glutamatergic synapses in cortical neurons. KCC2 has been shown to influence spine morphogenesis and functional maturation in developing neurons, but its function in mature dendritic spines remains unknown. Here, we report that suppressing KCC2 expression decreases the efficacy of excitatory synapses in mature hippocampal neurons. This effect correlates with a reduced postsynaptic aggregation of GluR1-containing AMPA receptors and is mimicked by a dominant negative mutant of KCC2 interaction with cytoskeleton but not by pharmacological suppression of KCC2 function. Single-particle tracking experiments reveal that suppressing KCC2 increases lateral diffusion of the mobile fraction of AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 in spines but not in adjacent dendritic shafts. Increased diffusion was also observed for transmembrane but not membrane-anchored recombinant neuronal cell adhesion molecules. We suggest that KCC2, likely through interactions with the actin cytoskeleton, hinders transmembrane protein diffusion, and thereby contributes to their confinement within dendritic spines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism*
  • Diffusion
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Symporters / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Symporters
  • potassium-chloride symporters
  • glutamate receptor ionotropic, AMPA 1