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Stable but not rigid: Chronic in vivo STED nanoscopy reveals extensive remodeling of spines, indicating multiple drivers of plasticity.

Sci Adv. 2021 Jun 9;7(24):eabf2806. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abf2806. PMID: 34108204.

Authors/Editors: Steffens H, Mott AC, Li S, Wegner W, Švehla P, Kan VWY, Wolf F, Liebscher S, Willig KI.
Publication Date: 2021


Excitatory synapses on dendritic spines of pyramidal neurons are considered a central memory locus. To foster both continuous adaption as well as the storage of long-term information, spines need to be plastic and stable at the same time. Here we advanced in vivo STED nanoscopy to superresolve distinct features of dendritic spines (head size, neck length and width) in mouse neocortex for up to one month. While LTP-dependent changes predict highly correlated modifications of spine geometry, we find both, uncorrelated dynamics, as well as correlated changes, indicating multiple independent drivers of spine remodeling. The magnitude of this remodeling suggests substantial fluctuations in synaptic strength, and is exaggerated in a mouse model of neurodegeneration. Despite this high degree of volatility, all spine features also exhibit persistent components that are maintained over long periods of time. Thus, at the nanoscale, stable dendritic spines exhibit a delicate balance of stability and volatility.

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