Look who is weaving the neural web: glial control of synapse formation

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2009 Oct;19(5):491-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2009.09.007. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


Historically, our understanding of synapse formation has been shaped by studies focusing on neurons. However, with advancements in live imaging techniques and molecular and genetic tools we are rapidly uncovering new roles for glia in synapse formation and function. Contact-mediated signals from glia instruct dendrites to become receptive to synaptic partners. Glia-secreted factors coordinate the assembly and apposition of pre-synaptic and post-synaptic specializations. Glial cells also provide cues that are required for synaptic maturation and remodeling of spines both during development and in the adult. As we continue to learn about glial contributions to synapse formation and maintenance, it is likely that glia-derived signals will emerge as potential therapeutic targets for diseases that involve aberrant circuit function such as autism, epilepsy and Alzheimer's Disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synapses / physiology*