Dendritic spines lost during glutamate receptor activation reemerge at original sites of synaptic contact

M. Josh Hasbani, Michelle L. Schlief, Daniel A. Fisher, Mark P. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


During cerebral ischemia, neurons undergo rapid alterations in dendritic structure consisting of focal swelling and spine loss. We used time-lapse microscopy to determine the fate of dendritic spines that disappeared after brief, sublethal hypoxic or excitotoxic exposures. Dendrite and spine morphology were assessed in cultured cortical neurons expressing yellow fluorescent protein or labeled with the fluorescent membrane tracer, Dil. Neurons exposed to NMDA, kainate, or oxygen-glucose deprivation underwent segmental dendritic beading and loss of approximately one-half of dendritic spines. Most spine loss was observed in regions of local dendritic swelling. Despite widespread loss, spines recovered within 2 hr after termination of agonist exposure or oxygen-glucose deprivation and remained stable over the subsequent 24 hr. Recovery was slower after NMDA than AMPA/kainate receptor activation. Time-lapse fluorescence imaging showed that the vast majority of spines reemerged in the same location from which they disappeared. In addition to spine recovery, elaboration of dendritic filopodia was observed in new locations along the dendritic shaft after dendrite recovery. Spine recovery did not depend on actin polymerization because it was not blocked by application of latrunculin-A, which eliminated filamentous actin staining in spines and blocked spine motility. Throughout spine loss and recovery, presynaptic and postsynaptic elements remained in physical proximity. These results suggest that elimination of dendritic spines is not necessarily associated with loss of synaptic contacts. Rapid reestablishment of dendritic spine synapses in surviving neurons may be a substrate for functional recovery after transient cerebral ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2393-2403
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Actin
  • Dendritic spine
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glutamate
  • Hypoxia
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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