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Brain cells are immersed in a complex structure forming the extracellular matrix. The composition of the matrix gradually matures during postnatal development, as the brain circuitry reaches its adult form. The fully developed extracellular environment stabilizes neuronal connectivity and decreases cortical plasticity as highlighted by the demonstration that treatments degrading the matrix are able to restore synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. The mechanisms through which the matrix inhibits cortical plasticity are not fully clarified. Here we show that a prominent component of the matrix, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs), restrains morphological changes of dendritic spines in the visual cortex of adult mice. By means of in vivo and in vitro two-photon imaging and electrophysiology, we find that after enzymatic digestion of CSPGs, cortical spines become more motile and express a larger degree of structural and functional plasticity.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Aging, Animals, Chondroitin ABC Lyase, Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans, Dendritic Spines, Electrodes, Evoked Potentials, Visual, Extracellular Matrix, Fluorescence, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Long-Term Potentiation, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Movement, Neuronal Plasticity, Visual Cortex