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Naturwissenschaften. 1999 Nov;86(11):516-24.

Synaptic cell adhesion proteins and synaptogenesis in the mammalian central nervous system.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Experimentelle Medizin, AG Molekulare Neurobiologie, Hermann-Rein-Strasse 3, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Synapses are asymmetric cell-cell contacts, typically formed between the presynaptic axon terminal of a "sending" nerve cell and the postsynaptic dendrite, the soma or - in some cases - the axon of a "receiving" one. The presynaptic axon terminal is specialized for the complex membrane trafficking mechanisms that underlie regulated secretion of neurotransmitter, while the postsynapse is uniquely specialized for signal transduction. Synaptogenesis, the formation of functional synapses, is the final step in the development of the central nervous system. In the mammalian brain it results in the establishment of a neural network, connecting some 10(12) nerve cells with up to 10(15) synapses. In principle, synaptogenesis takes place in two consecutive steps that are most likely mediated by cell adhesion molecules. First, an arriving axonal growth cone identifies its appropriate partner cell, creating an initial contact, and, second, specific axonal and dendritic protein components are recruited to this initial contact site, forming a functional synapse. Three cell adhesion systems have recently been shown to be specifically enriched at synaptic contacts: the cadherin/catenin system, the cadherinlike neuronal receptors, and the beta-neurexin/neuroligin system. Components of all three cell adhesion systems have been localized to synaptic contacts using immunogold electron microscopy but are also present outside of synapses. The present short review discusses the possible role of these synaptic cell adhesion molecules in synaptogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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