Calcium-triggered exit of F-actin and IP3 3-kinase A from dendritic spines is rapid and reversible

Michael J. Schell, Robin F. Irvine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The structure of the actin cytoskeleton in dendritic spines is thought to underlie some forms of synaptic plasticity. We have used fixed and live-cell imaging in rat primary hippocampal cultures to characterize the synaptic dynamics of the F-actin binding protein inositol trisphosphate 3-kinase A (IP3K), which is localized in the spines of pyramidal neurons derived from the CA1 region. IP3K was intensely concentrated as puncta in spine heads when Ca2+ influx was low, but rapidly and reversibly redistributed to a striated morphology in the main dendrite when Ca2+ influx was high. Glutamate stimulated the exit of IP3K from spines within 10 s, and re-entry following blockage of Ca2+ influx commenced within a minute; IP3K appeared to remain associated with F-actin throughout this process. Ca 2+-triggered F-actin relocalization occurred in about 90% of the cells expressing IP3K endogenously, and was modulated by the synaptic activity of the cultures, suggesting that it is a physiological process. F-actin relocalization was blocked by cytochalasins, jasplakinolide and by the over-expression of actin fused to green fluorescent protein. We also used deconvolution microscopy to visualize the relationship between F-actin and endoplasmic reticulum inside dendritic spines, revealing a delicate microorganization of IP3K near the Ca2+ stores. We conclude that Ca2+ influx into the spines of CA1 pyramidal neurons triggers the rapid and reversible retraction of F-actin from the dendritic spine head. This process contributes to changes in spine F-actin shape and content during synaptic activity, and might also regulate spine IP3 signals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2491-2503
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • CA1
  • Cytochalasin
  • Hippocampus
  • Inositol
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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