Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

It Takes a Few

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Science Signaling  03 Dec 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 304, pp. ec294
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004959

Persistent maintenance of long-term potentiation (LTP) of glutamatergic synapses and long-term memory requires neuronal nuclear signaling that leads to gene transcription. It is unclear whether signaling produced at a single dendritic spine can be transmitted into the nucleus to regulate gene transcription. Using two-photon glutamate uncaging in combination with two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging, Zhai et al. show that induction of LTP in only three to seven dendritic spines in a hippocampal pyramidal neuron can trigger activation of nuclear extracellular signal–regulated kinase and downstream transcription factors cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element–binding protein and E26-like transcription factor-1. Thus, signaling initiated in each dendritic spine can be transmitted into the nucleus to regulate gene transcription. Furthermore, biochemical signaling in multiple dendritic branches was integrated to activate the nuclear signaling.

S. Zhai, E. D. Ark, P. Parra-Bueno, R. Yasuda, Long-distance integration of nuclear ERK signaling triggered by activation of a few dendritic spines. Science 342, 1107–1111 (2013). [Abstract][Full Text]