LTP induction by structural rather than enzymatic functions of CaMKII

Nature. 2023 Sep;621(7977):146-153. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06465-y. Epub 2023 Aug 30.


Learning and memory are thought to require hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), and one of the few central dogmas of molecular neuroscience that has stood undisputed for more than three decades is that LTP induction requires enzymatic activity of the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII)1-3. However, as we delineate here, the experimental evidence is surprisingly far from conclusive. All previous interventions inhibiting enzymatic CaMKII activity and LTP4-8 also interfere with structural CaMKII roles, in particular binding to the NMDA-type glutamate receptor subunit GluN2B9-14. Thus, we here characterized and utilized complementary sets of new opto-/pharmaco-genetic tools to distinguish between enzymatic and structural CaMKII functions. Several independent lines of evidence demonstrated LTP induction by a structural function of CaMKII rather than by its enzymatic activity. The sole contribution of kinase activity was autoregulation of this structural role via T286 autophosphorylation, which explains why this distinction has been elusive for decades. Directly initiating the structural function in a manner that circumvented this T286 role was sufficient to elicit robust LTP, even when enzymatic CaMKII activity was blocked.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2* / chemistry
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2* / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Long-Term Potentiation* / physiology
  • Optogenetics
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding


  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Glutamic Acid
  • NR2B NMDA receptor