Compartmentalized Calcium Transients Trigger Dendrite Pruning in Drosophila Sensory Neurons

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1475-1478
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234879

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Dendritic Pruning

During metamorphosis, Drosophila sensory neurons eliminate their dendritic trees, but axons and soma remain intact. Kanamori et al. (p. 1475, published online 30 May) demonstrate that compartmentalized calcium transients in dendrites function as the spatiotemporal cue for pruning of unwanted branches. Such a localized calcium signal, induced by a local elevation of branch excitability, activates calcium-dependent proteinases and eventually causes branch death.


Dendrite pruning is critical for sculpting the final connectivity of neural circuits as it removes inappropriate projections, yet how neurons can selectively eliminate unnecessary dendritic branches remains elusive. Here, we show that calcium transients that are compartmentalized in specific dendritic branches act as temporal and spatial cues to trigger pruning in Drosophila sensory neurons. Calcium transients occurred in local dendrites at ~3 hours before branch elimination. In dendritic branches, intrinsic excitability increased locally to activate calcium influx via the voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs), and blockade of the VGCC activities impaired pruning. Further genetic analyses suggest that the calcium-activated protease calpain functions downstream of the calcium transients. Our findings reveal the importance of the compartmentalized subdendritic calcium signaling in spatiotemporally selective elimination of dendritic branches.

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