Differential distribution of Shank and GKAP at the postsynaptic density

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 16;10(3):e0118750. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118750. eCollection 2015.


Shank and GKAP are scaffold proteins and binding partners at the postsynaptic density (PSD). The distribution and dynamics of Shank and GKAP were studied in dissociated hippocampal cultures by pre-embedding immunogold electron microscopy. Antibodies against epitopes containing their respective mutual binding sites were used to verify the expected juxtapositioning of Shank and GKAP. If all Shank and GKAP molecules at the PSD were bound to each other, the distribution of label for the two proteins should coincide. However, labels for the mutual binding sites showed significant differences in distribution, with a narrow distribution for GKAP located close to the postsynaptic membrane, and a wider distribution for Shank extending deeper into the cytoplasm. Upon depolarization with high K+, neither the intensity nor distribution of label for GKAP changed, but labeling intensity for Shank at the PSD increased to ~150% of controls while the median distance of label from postsynaptic membrane increased by 7.5 nm. These results indicate a preferential recruitment of Shank to more distal parts of the PSD complex. Conversely, upon incubation in Ca2+-free medium containing EGTA, the labeling intensity of Shank at the PSD decreased to ~70% of controls and the median distance of label from postsynaptic membrane decreased by 9 nm, indicating a preferential loss of Shank molecules in more distal parts of the PSD complex. These observations identify two pools of Shank at the PSD complex, one relatively stable pool, closer to the postsynaptic membrane that can bind to GKAP, and another more dynamic pool at a location too far away to bind to GKAP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Egtazic Acid / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Post-Synaptic Density / metabolism*
  • Post-Synaptic Density / ultrastructure
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • SAP90-PSD95 Associated Proteins


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SAP90-PSD95 Associated Proteins
  • Shank1 protein, rat
  • Shank2 protein, rat
  • Egtazic Acid
  • Potassium