Nonsynaptic communication in the central nervous system

Neurochem Int. 2004 Sep;45(4):443-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2003.11.016.


Classical synaptic functions are important and suitable to relatively fast and discretely localized processes, but the nonclassical receptorial functions may be providing revolutionary possibilities for dealing at the cellular level with many of the more interesting and seemingly intractable features of neural and cerebral activities. Although different forms of nonsynaptic communication (volume transmission) often appear in different studies, their importance to modulate and mediate various functions is still not completely recognized. To establish the existence and the importance of nonsynaptic communication in the nervous system, here we cite pieces of evidence for each step of the interneuronal communication in the nonsynaptic context including the release into the extracellular space (ECS) and the extrasynaptic receptors and transporters that mediate nonsynaptic functions. We are now faced with a multiplicity of chemical communication. The fact that transmitters can even be released from nonsynaptic varicosities without being coupled to frequency-coded neuronal activity and they are able to diffuse over large distances indicates that there is a complementary mechanism of interneuronal communication to classical synaptic transmission. Nonconventional mediators that are also important part of the nonsynaptic world will also be overviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology