Microscopy (Oxford, England)

Structural analysis of the PSD-95 cluster by electron tomography and CEMOVIS: a proposal for the application of the genetically encoded metallothionein tag.

PMID 24586041


Postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95) accumulates at excitatory postsynapses and plays important roles in the clustering and anchoring of numerous proteins at the PSD. However, a detailed ultrastructural analysis of clusters exclusively consisting of PSD-95 has never been performed. Here, we employed a genetically encoded tag, three tandem repeats of metallothionein (3MT), to study the structure of PSD-95 clusters in cells by electron tomography and cryo-electron microscopy of vitreous sections. We also performed conventional transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Cultured hippocampal neurons expressing a fusion protein of PSD-95 coupled to 3MT (PDS-95-3MT) were incubated with CdCl2 to result in the formation of Cd-bound PSD-95-3MT. Two types of electron-dense deposits composed of Cd-bound PSD-95-3MT were observed in these cells by TEM, as reported previously. Electron tomography revealed the presence of membrane-shaped structures representing PSD-95 clusters at the PSD and an ellipsoidal structure located in the non-synaptic cytoplasm. By TEM, the PSD-95 clusters appeared to be composed of a number of dense cores. In frozen hydrated sections, these dense cores were also found beneath the postsynaptic membrane. Taken together, our findings suggest that dense cores of PSD-95 aggregate to form the larger clusters present in the PSD and the non-synaptic cytoplasm.