Immunocytochemical localization of actin in dendritic spines of the cerebral cortex using colloidal gold as a probe

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 1985 Sep;5(3):271-84. doi: 10.1007/BF00711012.


Immunocytochemical localization of actin in rat cerebral cortex embedded in the resin LR White was performed using 5 nm colloidal gold as a probe. Antigenicity is maintained throughout the embedding procedure and the low electron opacity of LR White permits fine filamentous structures to be visualized. Control experiments included incubating the sections with normal goat serum or mouse IgG instead of the primary antibody, preadsorbing the antibody with actin from bovine muscle or liver acetone powder, and heat treating the primary antibody. Immunoreactive actin was identified primarily in dendritic spines, particularly in the postsynaptic density (PSD), the subsynaptic web, and the spine apparatus and endothelial and smooth muscle cells of blood vessels. Within dendritic spines, actin which is labeled in the PSD is in continuity with the filaments of the subsynaptic web. These filaments, in turn, are in continuity with the spine apparatus and/or the spine membranes adjacent to the PSD. The PSD may therefore function like other submembranous filamentous arrays which communicate events occurring at the membrane, in this case, the postsynaptic membrane, to the underlying cytoskeletal network, i.e., the subsynaptic web of the spine. It is also suggested that the actin present in the spine may play a role in changes in spine shape and synaptic curvature. Some actin was also seen in the presynaptic process in association with synaptic vesicles, the filamentous network that is contiguous with the synaptic vesicle membrane, and the presynaptic dense projections. Actin may be involved in dynamic processes in the presynaptic ending which include vesicle translocation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Gold
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Immunochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Actins
  • Gold