Special Reviews

Signal-Processing Machines at the Postsynaptic Density

Science  27 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5492, pp. 750-754
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5492.750

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Abstract

Dendrites of individual neurons in the vertebrate central nervous system are contacted by thousands of synaptic terminals relaying information about the environment. The postsynaptic membrane at each synaptic terminal is the first place where information is processed as it converges on the dendrite. At the postsynaptic membrane of excitatory synapses, neurotransmitter receptors are attached to large protein “signaling machines” that delicately regulate the strength of synaptic transmission. These machines are visible in the electron microscope and are called the postsynaptic density. By changing synaptic strength in response to neural activity, the postsynaptic density contributes to information processing and the formation of memories.

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