Mechanisms of vertebrate synaptogenesis

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2005;28:251-74. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144336.


The formation of synapses in the vertebrate central nervous system is a complex process that occurs over a protracted period of development. Recent work has begun to unravel the mysteries of synaptogenesis, demonstrating the existence of multiple molecules that influence not only when and where synapses form but also synaptic specificity and stability. Some of these molecules act at a distance, steering axons to their correct receptive fields and promoting neuronal differentiation and maturation, whereas others act at the time of contact, providing positional information about the appropriateness of targets and/or inductive signals that trigger the cascade of events leading to synapse formation. In addition, correlated synaptic activity provides critical information about the appropriateness of synaptic connections, thereby influencing synapse stability and elimination. Although synapse formation and elimination are hallmarks of early development, these processes are also fundamental to learning, memory, and cognition in the mature brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Synaptic Vesicles / physiology
  • Vertebrates / physiology*


  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules