Endoplasmic reticulum visits highly active spines and prevents runaway potentiation of synapses

Nat Commun. 2020 Oct 8;11(1):5083. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18889-5.


In hippocampal pyramidal cells, a small subset of dendritic spines contain endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In large spines, ER frequently forms a spine apparatus, while smaller spines contain just a single tubule of smooth ER. Here we show that the ER visits dendritic spines in a non-random manner, targeting spines during periods of high synaptic activity. When we blocked ER motility using a dominant negative approach against myosin V, spine synapses became stronger compared to controls. We were not able to further potentiate these maxed-out synapses, but long-term depression (LTD) was readily induced by low-frequency stimulation. We conclude that the brief ER visits to active spines have the important function of preventing runaway potentiation of individual spine synapses, keeping most of them at an intermediate strength level from which both long-term potentiation (LTP) and LTD are possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Long-Term Potentiation
  • Myosin Type V / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Time-Lapse Imaging


  • Myosin Type V