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Prog Neurobiol. 2000 Oct;62(2):159-96.

Molecular frequency filters at central synapses.

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Department of Physiology, Royal Free and University College Medical School, UCL, Rowland Hill Street, NW3 2PF, London, UK.


During the 1950s to 70s most of the mechanisms that control transmitter release from presynaptic nerve terminals were described at the neuromuscular junction. It was not, however, until the 1990s that the multiplicity of protein-protein interactions that govern this process began to be identified. The sheer numbers of proteins and the complexity of their interactions at first appears excessive, even redundant. However, studies of identified central synapses indicate that this molecular diversity may underlie a important functional diversity. The task of the neuromuscular junction is to relay faithfully the rate and pattern code generated by the motoneurone. To demonstrate phenomena such as facilitation and augmentation that are apparent only when the probability of release is low, experimental manipulation is required. In the cortex, however, low probability synapses displaying facilitation can be recorded in parallel with high probability synapses displaying depression. The mechanisms are largely the same as those displayed by the neuromuscular junction, but some are differentially expressed and controlled. Central synapses demonstrate exquisitely fine tuned information transfer, each of the many types displaying its own repertoire of pattern- and frequency-dependent properties. These appear tuned to match both the discharge pattern in the presynaptic neurone and the integrative requirements of the postsynaptic cell. The molecular identification of these differentially expressed frequency filters is now just coming into sight. This review attempts to correlate these two aspects of synaptic physiology and to identify the components of the release process that are responsible for the diversity of function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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