Florelle Domart, Peter Cloetens, Stéphane Roudeau, Asuncion Carmona, Emeline Verdier, Daniel Choquet, Richard Ortega
Zinc and copper are involved in neuronal differentiation and synaptic plasticity but the molecular mechanisms behind these processes are still elusive due in part to the difficulty of imaging trace metals together with proteins at the synaptic level. We correlate stimulated-emission-depletion microscopy of proteins and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence imaging of trace metals, both performed with 40 nm spatial resolution, on primary rat hippocampal neurons. We reveal the co-localization at the nanoscale of zinc and tubulin in dendrites with a molecular ratio of about one zinc atom per tubulin-αβ dimer. We observe the co-segregation of copper and F-actin within the nano-architecture of dendritic protrusions. In addition, zinc chelation causes a decrease in the expression of cytoskeleton proteins in dendrites and spines. Overall, these results indicate new functions for zinc and copper in the modulation of the cytoskeleton morphology in dendrites, a mechanism associated to neuronal plasticity and memory formation.