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


Steffens H, Mott AC, Li S, Wegner W, Švehla P, Kan VWY, Wolf F, Liebscher S, Willig KI


Science Advances


Sci. Adv. 2021; 7 : eabf2806.


Excitatory synapses on dendritic spines of pyramidal neurons are considered a central memory locus. To foster both continuous adaption and 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 spines (head size and neck length/width) in mouse neocortex for up to 1 month. While LTP-dependent changes predict highly correlated modifications of spine geometry, we find both, uncorrelated and correlated dynamics, indicating multiple independent drivers of spine remodeling. The magnitude of this remodeling suggests substantial fluctuations in synaptic strength. Despite this high degree of volatility, all spine features exhibit persistent components that are maintained over long periods of time. Furthermore, chronic nanoscopy uncovers structural alterations in the cortex of a mouse model of neurodegeneration. Thus, at the nanoscale, stable dendritic spines exhibit a delicate balance of stability and volatility.



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