Actin cytoskeleton role in the maintenance of neuronal morphology and long-term memory

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Evidence indicates that long-term memory formation creates long-lasting changes in neuronal morphology within a specific neuronal network that forms the memory trace. Dendritic spines, which include most of the excitatory synapses in excitatory neurons, are formed or eliminated by learning. These changes may be long-lasting and correlate with memory strength. Moreover, learning-induced changes in the morphology of existing spines can also contribute to the formation of the neuronal network that underlies memory. Altering spines morphology after memory consolidation can erase memory. These observations strongly suggest that learning-induced spines modifications can constitute the changes in synaptic connectivity within the neuronal network that form memory and that stabilization of this network maintains long-term memory. The formation and elimination of spines and other finer morphological changes in spines are mediated by the actin cytoskeleton. The actin cytoskeleton forms networks within the spine that support its structure. Therefore, it is believed that the actin cytoskeleton mediates spine morphogenesis induced by learning. Any long-lasting changes in the spine morphology induced by learning require the preservation of the spine actin cytoskeleton network to support and stabilize the spine new structure. However, the actin cytoskeleton is highly dynamic, and the turnover of actin and its regulatory proteins that determine and support the actin cytoskeleton network structure is relatively fast. Molecular models, suggested here, describe ways to overcome the dynamic nature of the actin cytoskeleton and the fast protein turnover and to support an enduring actin cytoskeleton network within the spines, spines stability and long-term memory. These models are based on long-lasting changes in actin regulatory proteins concentrations within the spine or the formation of a long-lasting scaffold and the ability for its recurring rebuilding within the spine. The persistence of the actin cytoskeleton network within the spine is suggested to support long-lasting spine structure and the maintenance of long-term memory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1795
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Actin cytoskeleton
  • Dendritic spines
  • Learning and memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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