Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 123–139 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal maps of CaMKII in dendritic spines

  • Shahid KhanEmail author
  • Thomas S. Reese
  • Nasir Rajpoot
  • Ayisha Shabbir


The calcium calmodulin dependent kinase (CaMKII) is important for long-term potentiation at dendritic spines. Photo-activatable GFP (PaGFP) – CaMKII fusions were used to map CaMKII movements between and within spines in dissociated hippocampal neurons. Photo-activated PaGFP (GFP*) generated in the shaft spread uniformly, but was retained for about 1 s in spines. The differential localization of GFP*-CaMKII isoforms was visualized with hundred nanometer precision frame to frame using de-noising algorithms. GFP*-CaMKIIα localized to the tips of mushroom spines. The spatiotemporal profiles of native and kinase defective GFP*-CaMKIIβ, differed markedly from GFP*-CaMKIIα and mutant GFP*-CaMKIIβ lacking the association domain. CaMKIIβ bound to cortical actin in the dendrite and the stable actin network in spine bodies. Glutamate produced a transiently localized GFP*-CaMKIIα fraction and a soluble GFP*-CaMKIIβ fraction in spine bodies. Single molecule simulations of the interplay between diffusion and biochemistry of GFP* species were guided by the spatiotemporal maps and set limits on binding parameters. They highlighted the role of spine morphology in modulating bound CaMKII lifetimes. The long residence times of GFP*-CaMKIIβ relative to GFP*-CaMKIIα followed as consequence of more binding sites on the actin cytoskeleton than the post-synaptic density. These factors combined to retain CaMKII for tens of seconds, sufficient to outlast the calcium transients triggered by glutamate, without invoking complex biochemistry.


Smoldyn Actin cytoskeleton Photo-activation Multi-color confocal microscopy Wavelet transform Cultured hippocampal neurons 



We thank Dr Steven Andrews for advice and discussion regarding Smoldyn and Dr Ayse Dosemici for comments on the manuscript. Ayisha Shabbir was supported by start-up funds from the LUMS School of Science & Engineering (to S.K).

Supplementary material

Movie 1

(PAalpha.mpg): Movie of de-noised image sequence showing sequestration of GFP*-CaMKIIa to spine tip (MPG 5488 kb)

Movie 2

(PAbetaK.mpg): Movie of de-noised image sequence showing sequestration of GFP*-CaMKIIb to spine body. (MPG 3786 kb)

Movie 3

(PAgfp.mpg): Movie of Smoldyn simulation demonstrating trapping of GFP* in mushroom spine. (MPG 4474 kb)

10827_2011_377_MOESM4_ESM.txt (4 kb)
Script 1 (spine-PAgfpS1D80.txt): Example Smoldyn script for computation of GFP*-CaMKIIa residence times. (TXT 3 kb)
10827_2011_377_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (44 kb)
Script 2 (spine-PAgfpS2.txt): Example Smoldyn script for computation of GFP*-CaMKIIb residence times. Surface and solution reactions with the dendritic cortical actin and spine actin cytoskeleton are included to the reactions in Script 1. The dendrite geometry is different in the two scripts to illustrate virtual cell set-up (PDF 44.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shahid Khan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Thomas S. Reese
    • 1
  • Nasir Rajpoot
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ayisha Shabbir
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratory of NeurobiologyNational Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Molecular Biology ConsortiumChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Computational Biology and Bio-imaging Group, Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  4. 4.LUMS-School of Science & Engineering, Sector U, DHALahorePakistan

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