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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Oct;10(10):701-12. doi: 10.1038/nrn2717. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

The origin and evolution of synapses.

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Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge CB101SA, UK.

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  • Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Nov;10(11):829.


Understanding the evolutionary origins of behaviour is a central aim in the study of biology and may lead to insights into human disorders. Synaptic transmission is observed in a wide range of invertebrate and vertebrate organisms and underlies their behaviour. Proteomic studies of the molecular components of the highly complex mammalian postsynaptic machinery point to an ancestral molecular machinery in unicellular organisms--the protosynapse--that existed before the evolution of metazoans and neurons, and hence challenges existing views on the origins of the brain. The phylogeny of the molecular components of the synapse provides a new model for studying synapse diversity and complexity, and their implications for brain evolution.

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