Neurotrophins and synaptic plasticity

Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999;22:295-318. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.22.1.295.


Despite considerable evidence that neuronal activity influences the organization and function of circuits in the developing and adult brain, the molecular signals that translate activity into structural and functional changes in connections remain largely obscure. This review discusses the evidence implicating neurotrophins as molecular mediators of synaptic and morphological plasticity. Neurotrophins are attractive candidates for these roles because they and their receptors are expressed in areas of the brain that undergo plasticity, activity can regulate their levels and secretion, and they regulate both synaptic transmission and neuronal growth. Although numerous experiments show demonstrable effects of neurotrophins on synaptic plasticity, the rules and mechanisms by which they exert their effects remain intriguingly elusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor