Axospinous synapses with segmented postsynaptic densities: a morphologically distinct synaptic subtype contributing to the number of profiles of 'perforated' synapses visualized in random sections

Brain Res. 1987 Oct 13;423(1-2):179-88. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(87)90838-9.


Axospinous synapses were examined in the molecular layer of the rat dentate gyrus. Serial section analysis of synapses, which exhibited a discontinuity of the postsynaptic density (PSD) in at least one consecutive section, was performed. Reconstruction of each discontinuous PSD was made in a plane perpendicular to that of serial sections. The results obtained confirm earlier observations that profiles of 'perforated' synapses visualized in random sections of osmicated material are produced by sectioning of synapses with perforated and horseshoe-shaped PSDs. Additionally, it has been found that two other synaptic subtypes, namely synapses with notched and segmented PSD, contribute to the number of profiles of 'perforated' synapses. Synaptic contacts with notched PSD are characterized by an indentation of an otherwise continuous PSD, relatively small dimensions and simple shape. They appear to be unrelated to the category of synapses with discontinuous PSD. Synaptic contacts with segmented PSD are distinguished by the presence of 2-5 discrete PSD segments at the interface between a presynaptic axon terminal and a postsynaptic dendritic spine. Some PSD segments exhibit 1-3 perforations, while others are horseshoe-shaped. It is postulated that the segmented PSD may evolve through the stages of perforated and horseshoe-shaped PSD to form a specialized synaptic contact of an unusually high efficacy. Every PSD segment is a component of a separate synaptic complex, each one comparable to that of a small, simple-shaped synapse. A concerted activation of several synaptic complexes belonging to a single synaptic junction may provide a mechanism for an amplification of synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Hippocampus / growth & development*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*