Bidirectional signaling of ErbB and Eph receptors at synapses

Neuron Glia Biol. 2008 Aug;4(3):211-21. doi: 10.1017/S1740925X09990287. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


Synapse development and remodeling are regulated by a plethora of molecules such as receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), a family of cell surface receptors that play critical roles in neural development. Two families of RTKs implicated in synaptic functions, ErbBs and Ephs, share similar characteristics in terms of exhibiting forward and reverse signaling. In this review, we will discuss the latest advances in the functions of ErbBs and Ephs at the synapse, including dendritic spine morphogenesis, synapse formation and maturation, and synaptic transmission and plasticity. In addition to signaling at interneuronal synapses, communication between neuron and glia is increasingly implicated in the control of synaptic functions. Studies on RTKs and their cognate ligands in glial cells enhance our understanding on the nature of 'tripartite synapse'. Implications of these signaling events in human diseases will be discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ephrins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Receptor, EphA1 / physiology*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Ephrins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Receptor, EphA1
  • Receptor, ErbB-2