Mechanisms of synapse assembly and disassembly

Neuron. 2003 Oct 9;40(2):243-64. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00608-1.


The mechanisms that govern synapse formation and elimination are fundamental to our understanding of neural development and plasticity. The wiring of neural circuitry requires that vast numbers of synapses be formed in a relatively short time. The subsequent refinement of neural circuitry involves the formation of additional synapses coincident with the disassembly of previously functional synapses. There is increasing evidence that activity-dependent plasticity also involves the formation and disassembly of synapses. While we are gaining insight into the mechanisms of both synapse assembly and disassembly, we understand very little about how these phenomena are related to each other and how they might be coordinately controlled to achieve the precise patterns of synaptic connectivity in the nervous system. Here, we review our current understanding of both synapse assembly and disassembly in an effort to unravel the relationship between these fundamental developmental processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Junction / growth & development
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*