Macroautophagy (hereafter “autophagy”) is a lysosomal degradation pathway that is important for learning and memory, suggesting critical roles for autophagy at the neuronal synapse. Little is known, however, about the molecular details of how autophagy is regulated with synaptic activity. Here, we used live-cell confocal microscopy to define the autophagy pathway in primary hippocampal neurons under various paradigms of synaptic activity. We found that synaptic activity regulates the motility of autophagic vacuoles (AVs) in dendrites. Stimulation of synaptic activity dampens AV motility, whereas silencing synaptic activity induces AV motility. Activity-dependent effects on dendritic AV motility are local and reversible. Importantly, these effects are compartment specific, occurring in dendrites and not in axons. Most strikingly, synaptic activity increases the presence of degradative autolysosomes in dendrites and not in axons. On the basis of our findings, we propose a model whereby synaptic activity locally controls AV dynamics and function within dendrites that may regulate the synaptic proteome.

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