Plasticity of dendritic spines: subcompartmentalization of signaling

Annu Rev Physiol. 2014:76:365-85. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021113-170400. Epub 2013 Nov 6.


The ability to induce and study neuronal plasticity in single dendritic spines has greatly advanced our understanding of the signaling mechanisms that mediate long-term potentiation. It is now clear that in addition to compartmentalization by the individual spine, subcompartmentalization of biochemical signals occurs at specialized microdomains within the spine. The spatiotemporal coordination of these complex cascades allows for the concomitant remodeling of the postsynaptic density and actin spinoskeleton and for the regulation of membrane traffic to express functional and structural plasticity. Here, we highlight recent findings in the signaling cascades at spine microdomains as well as the challenges and approaches to studying plasticity at the spine level.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Actins