Smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) forms a membranous network that extends throughout neurons. SER regulates intracellular calcium and the posttranslational modification and trafficking of membrane and proteins. As the structure of dendritic SER shifts from a tubular to a more complex, branched form, the movement of membrane cargo slows and delivery to nearby spines increases. Here we discovered changes in the structural complexity of SER that have important functional implications during long-term potentiation (LTP) in adult rat hippocampus. By 2 hours after the induction of LTP with theta-burst stimulation, synapse enlargement was greatest on spines that contained SER. More spines had an elaborate spine apparatus than a simple tubule of SER. The SER in dendritic shafts became more complex beneath spines with both polyribosomes and SER, and less complex along aspiny dendritic regions. The findings suggest that local changes in dendritic SER support enhanced growth of specific synapses during LTP.
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