The actin cytoskeleton: integrating form and function at the synapse

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2005;28:25-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.28.061604.135757.


Synapses are highly specialized intercellular junctions that mediate the transmission of information between axons and target cells. A fundamental property of synapses is their ability to modify the efficacy of synaptic communication through various forms of synaptic plasticity. Recent developments in imaging techniques have revealed that synapses exhibit a high degree of morphological plasticity under basal conditions and also in response to neuronal activity that induces alterations in synaptic strength. The underlying molecular basis for this morphological plasticity has attracted much attention, yet its functional significance to the mechanisms of synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity remains elusive. These morphological changes ultimately require the dynamic actin cytoskeleton, which is the major structural component of synapses. Delineating the physiological roles of the actin cytoskeleton in supporting synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity, therefore, paves the way for gaining molecular insights into when and how synaptic machineries couple synapse form and function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Actins