Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Spatial distribution of Na+-K+-ATPase in dendritic spines dissected by nanoscale superresolution STED microscopy

Hans Blom12, Daniel Rönnlund1, Lena Scott3, Zuzana Spicarova3, Jerker Widengren1, Alexander Bondar34, Anita Aperia3 and Hjalmar Brismar123*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Applied Physics, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Science for Life Laboratory, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, Novosibirsk, Russia

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-16

Published: 27 January 2011



The Na+,K+-ATPase plays an important role for ion homeostasis in virtually all mammalian cells, including neurons. Despite this, there is as yet little known about the isoform specific distribution in neurons.


With help of superresolving stimulated emission depletion microscopy the spatial distribution of Na+,K+-ATPase in dendritic spines of cultured striatum neurons have been dissected. The found compartmentalized distribution provides a strong evidence for the confinement of neuronal Na+,K+-ATPase (α3 isoform) in the postsynaptic region of the spine.


A compartmentalized distribution may have implications for the generation of local sodium gradients within the spine and for the structural and functional interaction between the sodium pump and other synaptic proteins. Superresolution microscopy has thus opened up a new perspective to elucidate the nature of the physiological function, regulation and signaling role of Na+,K+-ATPase from its topological distribution in dendritic spines.