Activity-regulated dynamic behavior of early dendritic protrusions: evidence for different types of dendritic filopodia. Academic Article uri icon


  • Dendritic filopodia are long and thin protrusions that occur predominantly during early development of the mammalian CNS. The function of dendritic filopodia is unknown, but they could serve to form early synapses, to generate spines, or to regulate dendritic branching and growth. We used two-photon imaging to characterize the motile behavior of dendritic protrusions during early postnatal development (P2-P12) in pyramidal neurons from acute slices of mouse neocortex. Dendritic protrusions in immature neurons are highly dynamic, and this motility is actin based. Motility and turnover of these early protrusions decreases throughout development, mirroring an increase in their average lifetime and density. Interestingly, density, motility, and length of filopodia are greater in dendritic growth cones than in dendritic shafts. These growth cones disappear after P5. Blocking synaptic transmission globally using TTX or calcium-free solutions led to a 40-120% increase in the density and length of dendritic filopodia in shafts but not in growth cones. Moreover, blocking ionotropic glutamate receptors resulted in an approximately 35% decrease in the density and turnover of shaft filopodia, whereas focal glutamate application led to a 75% increase in the length of shaft filopodia, but neither manipulation affected growth cone filopodia. Our results support the existence of two populations of filopodia, in growth cones and shafts, which are differentially regulated by neuronal activity. We propose that filopodia in dendritic growth cones are involved in dendritic growth and branching in an activity-independent manner, whereas shaft filopodia are responsible for activity-dependent synaptogenesis and, in some cases, may become dendritic spines.

publication date

  • August 6, 2003