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Role of copper and zinc in synaptic plasticity

Thanks to an unprecedented spatial resolution (30 nm) achieved on the nanoimaging beamline ID16A at the ESRF we have described for the first time the distribution of biological metals at the synapse level, in the dendritic spines of glutamatergic neurons in culture. The results indicate a new role of copper and zinc in neuronal plasticity (Perrin et al., 2017). We have thus revealed the essential character of these biological metals for the stability of the cytoskeleton of F-actin and microtubules in dendrites and dendritic spines.

Figure. Chemical nanoimaging of a dendritic spine of a glutamatergic neuron obtained on ID16A beamline at ESRF. The Zn, P, S, K, and Ca elements have a similar distribution, they occupy the entire post-synapse, with a high concentration of Zn in the post-synaptic density. Cu is present only in the neck of the dendritic spine. These distributions suggest a fundamental role of Cu and Zn in neuronal plasticity and postsynaptic architecture by interaction of these elements with cytoskeletal proteins and from the postsynaptic density.


Dynamic organization & Function of synapses, Institute for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, CNRS, University of Bordeaux.

ID16A Nano-imaging beamline, ESRF (The European Synchrotron), Grenoble.


Zinc and copper effects on stability of tubulin and actin networks in dendrites and spines of hippocampal neurons

Perrin L., Roudeau S., Carmona A., Domart F., Petersen J.D., Bohic S., Yang Y., Cloetens P., Ortega R. (2017), ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 8, 1490-1499. [pubmed] [link]