Gordon-Weeks PR (2016) The role of the drebrin/EB3/Cdk5 pathway in dendritic spine plasticity, implications for Alzheimer's disease.Brain Res Bull 126: 293-299
The drebrin/EB3/Cdk5 intracellular signalling pathway couples actin filaments to dynamic microtubules in cellular settings where cells are changing shape. The pathway has been most intensively studied in neuronal development, particularly neuritogenesis and neuronal migration, and in synaptic plasticity at dendritic spines in mature neurons. Drebrin is an actin filament side-binding and bundling protein that stabilises actin filaments. The end-binding (EB) proteins are microtubule plus-end tracking proteins (+TIPs) that localise to the growing plus-ends of dynamic microtubules and regulate their behavior and the binding of other +TIP proteins. EB3 binds specifically to drebrin when drebrin is bound to actin filaments, for example at the base of a growth cone filopodium, and EB3 is located at the plus-end of a growing microtubule inserting into the filopodium. This interaction therefore forms the basis for coupling dynamic microtubules to actin filaments in growth cones of developing neurons. Appropriate responses to growth cone guidance cues depend on actin filament/microtubule co-ordination in the growth cone, although the role of the drebrin/EB3/Cdk5 pathway in this context has not been directly tested. A similar cytoskeleton coupling pathway operates in dendritic spines in mature neurons where the activity-dependent insertion of dynamic microtubules into dendritic spines is facilitated by drebrin binding to EB3. Microtubule insertion into dendritic spines drives spine maturation during long-term potentiation and therefore has a role in synaptic plasticity and memory formation. In Alzheimer\'s disease and related chronic neurodegenerative diseases, there is an early and dramatic loss of drebrin from dendritic spines that precedes synapse loss and neurodegeneration and might contribute to a failure of synaptic plasticity and hence to cognitive decline.