Many cell adhesion molecules are localized at synaptic sites in neuronal axons and dendrites. These molecules bridge pre- and postsynaptic specializations but do far more than simply provide a mechanical link between cells. In this review, we will discuss the roles these proteins have during development and at mature synapses. Synaptic adhesion proteins participate in the formation, maturation, function and plasticity of synaptic connections. Together with conventional synaptic transmission mechanisms, these molecules are an important element in the trans-cellular communication mediated by synapses.