Synaptic Plasticity

Volume 970 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 265-284


Developmental Plasticity of the Dendritic Compartment: Focus on the Cytoskeleton

  • Malgorzata UrbanskaAffiliated withInternational Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
  • , Lukasz SwiechAffiliated withInternational Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
  • , Jacek JaworskiAffiliated withInternational Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology Email author 

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Plasticity, the ability to undergo lasting changes in response to a stimulus, is an important attribute of neurons. It allows proper development and underlies learning, memory, and the recovery of the nervous system after severe injuries. Often, an outcome of neuronal plasticity is a structural plasticity manifested as a change of neuronal morphology. In this chapter, we focus on the structural plasticity of dendritic arbors and spines during development. Dendrites receive and compute synaptic inputs from other neurons. The number of dendrites and their branching pattern are strictly correlated with the function of a particular neuron and the geometry of the connections it receives. The development of proper dendritic tree morphology depends on the interplay between genetic programming and extracellular signals. Spines are tiny actin-rich dendritic protrusions that harbor excitatory synapses. No consensus has been reached regarding how dendritic spines form, and several models of spine morphogenesis exist. Nevertheless, most researchers agree that spinogenesis is an important target for structural plasticity. In this chapter, we discuss examples of such plasticity and describe the principles and molecular mechanisms underlying this process, focusing mostly on the regulation of the cytoskeleton during dendrito- and spinogenesis.


Actin dynamics Cytoskeleton Dendritogenesis Dendritic spines Microtubules