A dual role for the RhoGEF Ephexin5 in regulation of dendritic spine outgrowth

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2017 Apr;80:66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2017.02.001. Epub 2017 Feb 7.


The outgrowth of new dendritic spines is closely linked to the formation of new synapses, and is thought to be a vital component of the experience-dependent circuit plasticity that supports learning. Here, we examined the role of the RhoGEF Ephexin5 in driving activity-dependent spine outgrowth. We found that reducing Ephexin5 levels increased spine outgrowth, and increasing Ephexin5 levels decreased spine outgrowth in a GEF-dependent manner, suggesting that Ephexin5 acts as an inhibitor of spine outgrowth. Notably, we found that increased neural activity led to a proteasome-dependent reduction in the levels of Ephexin5 in neuronal dendrites, which could facilitate the enhanced spine outgrowth observed following increased neural activity. Surprisingly, we also found that Ephexin5-GFP levels were elevated on the dendrite at sites of future new spines, prior to new spine outgrowth. Moreover, lowering neuronal Ephexin5 levels inhibited new spine outgrowth in response to both global increases in neural activity and local glutamatergic stimulation of the dendrite, suggesting that Ephexin5 is necessary for activity-dependent spine outgrowth. Our data support a model in which Ephexin5 serves a dual role in spinogenesis, acting both as a brake on overall spine outgrowth and as a necessary component in the site-specific formation of new spines.

Keywords: Activity-dependent; Dendritic spine; Ephexin5; Hippocampus; Proteasome; Structural plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / genetics*
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / classification*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / genetics
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / metabolism*
  • Synapses / genetics*


  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Glutamic Acid