Dendritic spines function as microcompartments that can modify the efficiency of their associated synapses. Here, we analyzed stimulus-dependent molecular changes in spines. The F-actin capping protein CapZ accumulates in parts of dendritic spines within regions where long-term potentiation has been induced. We produced a transgenic mouse line, AiCE-Tg, in which CapZ tagged with enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP-CapZ) is expressed. Twenty minutes after unilateral visual or somatosensory stimulation in AiCE-Tg mice, relative EGFP-CapZ signal intensification was seen in a subset of dendritic spines selectively in stimulated-side cortices; this right-left difference was abolished by NMDA receptor blockade. Immunolabeling of α-actinin, a PSD-95 binding protein that can recruit AMPA receptors, showed that the α-actinin signals colocalized more frequently in spines with the brightest EGFP-CapZ signals (top 100) than in spines with more typical EGFP-CapZ signal strength (top 1,000). This stimulus-dependent in vivo redistribution of EGFP-CapZ represents a novel molecular event with plasticity-like characteristics, and bright EGFP-CapZ in AiCE-Tg mice make high-CapZ spines traceable in vivo and ex vivo. This mouse line has the potential to be used to reveal sequential molecular events, including synaptic tagging, and to relate multiple types of plasticity in these spines, extending knowledge related to memory mechanisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas