The postsynaptic density
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- Boeckers, T.M. Cell Tissue Res (2006) 326: 409. doi:10.1007/s00441-006-0274-5
Glutamatergic synapses in the central nervous system are characterized by an electron-dense web underneath the postsynaptic membrane; this web is called the postsynaptic density (PSD). PSDs are composed of a dense network of several hundred proteins, creating a macromolecular complex that serves a wide range of functions. Prominent PSD proteins such as members of the MaGuk or ProSAP/Shank family build up a dense scaffold that creates an interface between clustered membrane-bound receptors, cell adhesion molecules and the actin-based cytoskeleton. Moreover, kinases, phosphatases and several proteins of different signalling pathways are specifically localized within the spine/PSD compartment. Small GTPases and regulating proteins are also enriched in PSDs being the molecular basis for regulated structural changes of cytoskeletal components within the synapse in response to external or internal stimuli, e.g. synaptic activation. This synaptic rearrangement (structural plasticity) is a rapid process and is believed to underlie learning and memory formation. The characterization of synapse/PSD proteins is especially important in the light of recent data suggesting that several mental disorders have their molecular defect at the synapse/PSD level.