Cell adhesion, the backbone of the synapse: "vertebrate" and "invertebrate" perspectives

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Oct;1(4):a003079. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a003079.


Synapses are asymmetric intercellular junctions that mediate neuronal communication. The number, type, and connectivity patterns of synapses determine the formation, maintenance, and function of neural circuitries. The complexity and specificity of synaptogenesis relies upon modulation of adhesive properties, which regulate contact initiation, synapse formation, maturation, and functional plasticity. Disruption of adhesion may result in structural and functional imbalance that may lead to neurodevelopmental diseases, such as autism, or neurodegeneration, such as Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, understanding the roles of different adhesion protein families in synapse formation is crucial for unraveling the biology of neuronal circuit formation, as well as the pathogenesis of some brain disorders. The present review summarizes some of the knowledge that has been acquired in vertebrate and invertebrate genetic model organisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Humans
  • Leucine / chemistry
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Vertebrates / physiology*


  • Cadherins
  • Leucine