Nature communications

Dendritic geometry shapes neuronal cAMP signalling to the nucleus.

PMID 25692798


Neurons have complex dendritic trees, receiving numerous inputs at various distances from the cell body. Yet the rules of molecular signal propagation from dendrites to nuclei are unknown. DARPP-32 is a phosphorylation-regulated signalling hub in striatal output neurons. We combine diffusion-reaction modelling and live imaging to investigate cAMP-activated DARPP-32 signalling to the nucleus. The model predicts maximal effects on the nucleus of cAMP production in secondary dendrites, due to segmental decrease of dendrite diameter. Variations in branching, perikaryon size or spines have less pronounced effects. Biosensor kinase activity measurement following cAMP or dopamine uncaging confirms these predictions. Histone 3 phosphorylation, regulated by this pathway, is best stimulated by cAMP released in secondary-like dendrites. Thus, unexpectedly, the efficacy of diffusion-based signalling from dendrites to nucleus is not inversely proportional to the distance. We suggest a general mechanism by which dendritic geometry counterbalances the effect of dendritic distance for signalling to the nucleus.