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C. elegans neurons have functional dendritic spines


Cuentas-Condori AAndrea , Mulcahy BBen , He SSiwei , Palumbos SSierra , Zhen MMei , Miller DMDavid M . eLife. 2019 10 4; 8().


Dendritic spines are specialized postsynaptic structures that transduce presynaptic signals, are regulated by neural activity and correlated with learning and memory. Most studies of spine function have focused on the mammalian nervous system. However, spine-like protrusions have been reported in (Philbrook et al., 2018), suggesting that the experimental advantages of smaller model organisms could be exploited to study the biology of dendritic spines. Here, we used super-resolution microscopy, electron microscopy, live-cell imaging and genetics to show that motor neurons have functional dendritic spines that: (1) are structurally defined by a dynamic actin cytoskeleton; (2) appose presynaptic dense projections; (3) localize ER and ribosomes; (4) display calcium transients triggered by presynaptic activity and propagated by internal Ca stores; (5) respond to activity-dependent signals that regulate spine density. These studies provide a solid foundation for a new experimental paradigm that exploits the power of genetics and live-cell imaging for fundamental studies of dendritic spine morphogenesis and function.