Probing the Interplay between Dendritic Spine Morphology and Membrane-Bound Diffusion
Dendritic spines are protrusions along neuronal dendrites that harbor the majority of excitatory postsynapses. Their distinct morphology, often featuring a bulbous head and small neck that connects to the dendritic shaft, has been shown to facilitate compartmentalization of electrical and cytoplasmic signaling stimuli elicited at the synapse. The extent to which spine morphology also forms a barrier for membrane-bound diffusion has remained unclear. Recent simulations suggested that especially the diameter of the spine neck plays a limiting role in this process. Here, we examine the connection between spine morphology and membrane-bound diffusion through a combination of photoconversion, live-cell superresolution experiments, and numerical simulations. Local photoconversion was used to obtain the timescale of diffusive equilibration in spines and followed by global sparse photoconversion to determine spine morphologies with nanoscopic resolution. These morphologies were subsequently used to assess the role of morphology on the diffusive equilibration. From the simulations, we could determine a robust relation between the equilibration timescale and a generalized shape factor calculated using both spine neck width and neck length, as well as spine head size. Experimentally, we found that diffusive equilibration was often slower, but rarely faster than predicted from the simulations, indicating that other biological confounders further reduce membrane-bound diffusion in these spines. This shape-dependent membrane-bound diffusion in mature spines may contribute to spine-specific compartmentalization of neurotransmitter receptors and signaling molecules and thereby support long-term plasticity of synaptic contacts.
Publisher URL: http://www.cell.com/biophysj/fulltext/S0006-3495(17)30698-7
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