Dendritic spines: revisiting the physiological role

Saravana Babu Chidambaram*, A. G. Rathipriya, Srinivasa Rao Bolla, Abid Bhat, Bipul Ray, Arehally Marappa Mahalakshmi, Thamilarasan Manivasagam, Arokiasamy Justin Thenmozhi, Musthafa Mohamed Essa, Gilles J. Guillemin, Ramesh Chandra, Meena Kishore Sakharkar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Dendritic spines are small, thin, specialized protrusions from neuronal dendrites, primarily localized in the excitatory synapses. Sophisticated imaging techniques revealed that dendritic spines are complex structures consisting of a dense network of cytoskeletal, transmembrane and scaffolding molecules, and numerous surface receptors. Molecular signaling pathways, mainly Rho and Ras family small GTPases pathways that converge on actin cytoskeleton, regulate the spine morphology and dynamics bi-directionally during synaptic activity. During synaptic plasticity the number and shapes of dendritic spines undergo radical reorganizations. Long-term potentiation (LTP) induction promote spine head enlargement and the formation and stabilization of new spines. Long-term depression (LTD) results in their shrinkage and retraction. Reports indicate increased spine density in the pyramidal neurons of autism and Fragile X syndrome patients and reduced density in the temporal gyrus loci of schizophrenic patients. Post-mortem reports of Alzheimer's brains showed reduced spine number in the hippocampus and cortex. This review highlights the spine morphogenesis process, the activity-dependent structural plasticity and mechanisms by which synaptic activity sculpts the dendritic spines, the structural and functional changes in spines during learning and memory using LTP and LTD processes. It also discusses on spine status in neurodegenerative diseases and the impact of nootropics and neuroprotective agents on the functional restoration of dendritic spines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-193
Number of pages33
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Early online date15 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2019


  • Dendritic spine pathology
  • Dendritic spines
  • Neurological diseases
  • Spine dynamics
  • synaptic plasticity


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