Studying signal transduction in single dendritic spines.
Many forms of synaptic plasticity are triggered by biochemical signaling that occurs in small postsynaptic compartments called dendritic spines, each of which typically houses the postsynaptic terminal associated with a single glutamatergic synapse. Recent advances in optical techniques allow investigators to monitor biochemical signaling in single dendritic spines and thus reveal the signaling mechanisms that link synaptic activity and the induction of synaptic plasticity. This is mostly in the study of Ca2+-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity for which many of the steps between Ca2+ influx and changes to the synapse are now known. This article introduces the new techniques used to investigate signaling in single dendritic spines and the neurobiological insights that they have produced.
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