June 16, 2011

Glutamate is such an abundant and important neurotransmitter that I may just eat my weight in MSG-filled Chinese takeout tonight to get extra (honestly, I don’t recommend this). Today’s image is from a paper using kick-ass techniques to show how glutamate plays a role in dendritic spine formation.

Our neurons have dendritic spines that receive input signals. These spines are small protrusions that are formed and remodeled throughout development and as a result of learning and sensory experiences. A recent paper describes the identification of glutamate as a biochemical signal able to induce spine growth. In this paper, Kwon and Sabatini took high-resolution images of specific mouse neurons and then uncaged, or activated, a form of glutamate at specific spots on the neuron. At these spots of uncaged glutamate, dendritic spines formed de novo and were rapidly functional. Images above show two examples of mouse neurons on which glutamate was uncaged (yellow dots), leading to the appearance of new spines (arrowheads).

ResearchBlogging.orgHyung-Bae Kwon, & Bernardo L. Sabatini (2011). Glutamate induces de novo growth of functional spines in developing cortex
Nature, 474, 100-104 : doi:10.1038/nature09986

Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright 2011

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