Voltage compartmentalization in dendritic spines in vivo

Science. 2022 Jan 7;375(6576):82-86. doi: 10.1126/science.abg0501. Epub 2021 Nov 11.


Dendritic spines mediate most excitatory neurotransmission in the nervous system, so their function must be critical for the brain. Spines are biochemical compartments but might also electrically modify synaptic potentials. Using two-photon microscopy and a genetically encoded voltage indicator, we measured membrane potentials in spines and dendrites from pyramidal neurons in the somatosensory cortex of mice during spontaneous activity and sensory stimulation. Spines and dendrites were depolarized together during action potentials, but, during subthreshold and resting potentials, spines often experienced different voltages than parent dendrites, even activating independently. Spine voltages remained compartmentalized after two-photon optogenetic activation of individual spine heads. We conclude that spines are elementary voltage compartments. The regulation of voltage compartmentalization could be important for synaptic function and plasticity, dendritic integration, and disease states.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Optogenetics
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Potentials