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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 4258171, 11 pages
Research Article

The Activator Mastoparan-7 Promotes Dendritic Spine Formation in Hippocampal Neurons

1Centro de Envejecimiento y Regeneración (CARE), Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 8331150 Santiago, Chile
2Center for Healthy Brain Ageing, School of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
3Centro UC Síndrome de Down, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
4Centro de Excelencia en Biomedicina de Magallanes (CEBIMA), Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas, Chile

Received 23 May 2015; Revised 26 July 2015; Accepted 27 August 2015

Academic Editor: Xin-Ming Ma

Copyright © 2016 Valerie T. Ramírez et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mastoparan-7 (Mas-7), an analogue of the peptide mastoparan, which is derived from wasp venom, is a direct activator of Pertussis toxin- (PTX-) sensitive G proteins. Mas-7 produces several biological effects in different cell types; however, little is known about how Mas-7 influences mature hippocampal neurons. We examined the specific role of Mas-7 in the development of dendritic spines, the sites of excitatory synaptic contact that are crucial for synaptic plasticity. We report here that exposure of hippocampal neurons to a low dose of Mas-7 increases dendritic spine density and spine head width in a time-dependent manner. Additionally, Mas-7 enhances postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) clustering in neurites and activates signaling, increasing the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. To define the role of signaling intermediates, we measured the levels of phosphorylated protein kinase C (PKC), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase IIα (CaMKIIα) after Mas-7 treatment and determined that CaMKII activation is necessary for the Mas-7-dependent increase in dendritic spine density. Our results demonstrate a critical role for subunit signaling in the regulation of synapse formation.