Distance-dependent gradient in NMDAR-driven spine calcium signals along tapering dendrites

Alison S Walker, Guilherme Neves, Federico Grillo, Rachel E Jackson, Mark Rigby, Cian O'Donnell, Andrew S Lowe, Gema Vizcay-Barrena, Roland A Fleck, Juan Burrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
263 Downloads (Pure)


Neurons receive a multitude of synaptic inputs along their dendritic arbor, but how this highly heterogeneous population of synaptic compartments is spatially organized remains unclear. By measuring N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor (NMDAR)-driven calcium responses in single spines, we provide a spatial map of synaptic calcium signals along dendritic arbors of hippocampal neurons and relate this to measures of synapse structure. We find that quantal NMDAR calcium signals increase in amplitude as they approach a thinning dendritic tip end. Based on a compartmental model of spine calcium dynamics, we propose that this biased distribution in calcium signals is governed by a gradual, distance-dependent decline in spine size, which we visualized using serial block-face scanning electron microscopy. Our data describe a cell-autonomous feature of principal neurons, where tapering dendrites show an inverse distribution of spine size and NMDAR-driven calcium signals along dendritic trees, with important implications for synaptic plasticity rules and spine function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1986-E1995
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
Early online date16 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2017


  • Journal Article


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