Simultaneous analysis of dendritic spine density, morphology and excitatory glutamate receptors during neuron maturation in vitro by quantitative immunocytochemistry.
ABSTRACT Alterations in the density and morphology of dendritic spines are characteristic of multiple cognitive disorders. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying spine alterations are facilitated by the use of experimental and analytical methods that permit concurrent evaluation of changes in spine density, morphology and composition. Here, an automated and quantitative immunocytochemical method for the simultaneous analysis of changes in the density and morphology of spines and excitatory glutamate receptors was established to analyze neuron maturation, in vitro. In neurons of long-term neuron-glia co-cultures, spine density as measured by drebrin cluster fluorescence, increased from DIV (days in vitro)10 to DIV18 (formation phase), remained stable from DIV18 to DIV21 (maintenance phase), and decreased from DIV21 to DIV26 (loss phase). The densities of spine-localized NMDAR and AMPAR clusters followed a similar trend. Spine head sizes as measured by the fluorescence intensities of drebrin clusters increased from DIV10 to DIV21 and decreased from DIV21 to DIV26. Changes in the densities of NR1-only, GluR2-only, and NR1+GluR2 spines were measured by the colocalizations of NR1 and GluR2 clusters with drebrin clusters. The densities of NR1-only spines remained stable from the maintenance to the loss phases, while GluR2-only and NR1+GluR2 spines decreased during the loss phase, thus suggesting GluR2 loss as a proximal molecular event that may underlie spine alterations during neuron maturation. This study demonstrates a sensitive and quantitative immunocytochemical method for the concurrent analysis of changes in spine density, morphology and composition, a valuable tool for determining molecular events involved in dendritic spine alterations.
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ABSTRACT: Overactivation of glutamate receptors leading to excitotoxicity has been implicated in the neurodegenerative alterations of a range of central nervous system (CNS) disorders. We have investigated the cell-type-specific changes in glutamate receptor localization in developing cortical neurons in culture, as well as the relationship between glutamate receptor subunit distribution with synapse formation and susceptibility to excitotoxicity. Glutamate receptor subunit clustering was present prior to the formation of synapses. However, different receptor types showed distinctive temporal patterns of subunit clustering, localization to spines, and apposition to presynaptic terminals. N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit immunolabelling was present in puncta along dendrites prior to the formation of synapses, with relatively little localization to spines. Vulnerability to NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxicity occurred before receptor subunits became localized in apposition to presynaptic terminals. Clustering of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptors occurred concurrently with development of vulnerability to excitotoxicity and was related to localization of AMPA receptors at synapses and in spines. Different AMPA receptor subunits demonstrated cell-type-specific localization as well as distribution to spines, dendrites, and extrasynaptic subunit clusters. A subclass of neurons demonstrated substantial perineuronal synaptic innervation, and these neurons expressed relatively high levels of GluR1 and/or GluR4 at receptor puncta, indicating the presence of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors and suggesting alternative synaptic signalling mechanisms and vulnerability to excitotoxicity. These data demonstrate the relationship between glutamate receptor subunit expression and localization with synaptogenesis and development of neuronal susceptibility to excitotoxicity. These data also suggest that excitotoxicity can be mediated through extrasynaptic receptor subunit complexes along dendrites.The Journal of Comparative Neurology 10/2006; 498(2):277-94. · 3.66 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Down's syndrome (DS) is the most common genetic cause of mental retardation. Reduced number and aberrant architecture of dendritic spines are common features of DS neuropathology. However, the mechanisms involved in DS spine alterations are not known. In addition to a relevant role in synapse formation and maintenance, astrocytes can regulate spine dynamics by releasing soluble factors or by physical contact with neurons. We have previously shown impaired mitochondrial function in DS astrocytes leading to metabolic alterations in protein processing and secretion. In this study, we investigated whether deficits in astrocyte function contribute to DS spine pathology. Using a human astrocyte/rat hippocampal neuron coculture, we found that DS astrocytes are directly involved in the development of spine malformations and reduced synaptic density. We also show that thrombospondin 1 (TSP-1), an astrocyte-secreted protein, possesses a potent modulatory effect on spine number and morphology, and that both DS brains and DS astrocytes exhibit marked deficits in TSP-1 protein expression. Depletion of TSP-1 from normal astrocytes resulted in dramatic changes in spine morphology, while restoration of TSP-1 levels prevented DS astrocyte-mediated spine and synaptic alterations. Astrocyte cultures derived from TSP-1 KO mice exhibited similar deficits to support spine formation and structure than DS astrocytes. These results indicate that human astrocytes promote spine and synapse formation, identify astrocyte dysfunction as a significant factor of spine and synaptic pathology in the DS brain, and provide a mechanistic rationale for the exploration of TSP-1-based therapies to treat spine and synaptic pathology in DS and other neurological conditions.PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(12):e14200. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Long-lasting modifications in synaptic transmission depend on de novo gene expression in neurons. The expression of activin, a member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) superfamily, is upregulated during hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP). Here, we show that activin increased the average number of presynaptic contacts on dendritic spines by increasing the population of spines that were contacted by multiple presynaptic terminals in cultured neurons. Activin also induced spine lengthening, primarily by elongating the neck, resulting in longer mushroom-shaped spines. The number of spines and spine head size were not significantly affected by activin treatment. The effects of activin on spinal filamentous actin (F-actin) morphology were independent of protein and RNA synthesis. Inhibition of cytoskeletal actin dynamics or of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway blocked not only the activin-induced increase in the number of terminals contacting a spine but also the activin-induced lengthening of spines. These results strongly suggest that activin increases the number of synaptic contacts by modulating actin dynamics in spines, a process that might contribute to the establishment of late-phase LTP.Journal of Cell Science 12/2007; 120(Pt 21):3830-7. · 5.88 Impact Factor