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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Mar 23;1662(1-2):113-37.

Electrical synapses: a dynamic signaling system that shapes the activity of neuronal networks.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Abstract

Gap junctions consist of intercellular channels dedicated to providing a direct pathway for ionic and biochemical communication between contacting cells. After an initial burst of publications describing electrical coupling in the brain, gap junctions progressively became less fashionable among neurobiologists, as the consensus was that this form of synaptic transmission would play a minimal role in shaping neuronal activity in higher vertebrates. Several new findings over the last decade (e.g. the implication of connexins in genetic diseases of the nervous system, in processing sensory information and in synchronizing the activity of neuronal networks) have brought gap junctions back into the spotlight. The appearance of gap junctional coupling in the nervous system is developmentally regulated, restricted to distinct cell types and persists after the establishment of chemical synapses, thus suggesting that this form of cell-cell signaling may be functionally interrelated with, rather than alternative to chemical transmission. This review focuses on gap junctions between neurons and summarizes the available data, derived from molecular, biological, electrophysiological, and genetic approaches, that are contributing to a new appreciation of their role in brain function.

PMID:
15033583
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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