EPSPs Measured in Proximal Dendritic Spines of Cortical Pyramidal Neurons

eNeuro. 2016 May 12;3(2):ENEURO.0050-15.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0050-15.2016. eCollection 2016 Mar-Apr.


EPSPs occur when the neurotransmitter glutamate binds to postsynaptic receptors located on small pleomorphic membrane protrusions called dendritic spines. To transmit the synaptic signal, these potentials must travel through the spine neck and the dendritic tree to reach the soma. Due to their small size, the electrical behavior of spines and their ability to compartmentalize electrical signals has been very difficult to assess experimentally. In this study, we developed a method to perform simultaneous two-photon voltage-sensitive dye recording with two-photon glutamate uncaging in order to measure the characteristics (amplitude and duration) of uncaging-evoked EPSPs in single spines on the basal dendrites of L5 pyramidal neurons in acute brain slices from CD1 control mice. We were able to record uncaging-evoked spine potentials that resembled miniature EPSPs at the soma from a wide range of spine morphologies. In proximal spines, these potentials averaged 13.0 mV (range, 6.5-30.8 mV; N = 20) for an average somatic EPSP of 0.59 mV, whereas the mean attenuation ratio (spine/soma) was found to be 25.3. Durations of spine EPSP waveforms were found to be 11.7 ms on average. Modeling studies demonstrate the important role that spine neck resistance (Rneck) plays in spine EPSP amplitudes. Simulations used to estimate Rneck by fits to voltage-sensitive dye measurements produced a mean of 179 MΩ (range, 23-420 MΩ; N = 19). Independent measurements based on fluorescence recovery after photobleaching of a cytosolic dye from spines of the same population of neurons produced a mean R eck estimate of 204 MΩ (range, 52-521 MΩ; N = 34).

Keywords: VSD; basal dendrites; dendritic spine; glutamate uncaging; synaptic integration; two-photon.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Biophysics
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Neurological
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Photobleaching
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging


  • Glutamic Acid