Mechanisms of synapse and dendrite maintenance and their disruption in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2010;33:349-78. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909-153204.


Emerging evidence indicates that once established, synapses and dendrites can be maintained for long periods, if not for the organism's entire lifetime. In contrast to the wealth of knowledge regarding axon, dendrite, and synapse development, we understand comparatively little about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that enable long-term synapse and dendrite maintenance. Here, we review how the actin cytoskeleton and its regulators, adhesion receptors, and scaffolding proteins mediate synapse and dendrite maintenance. We examine how these mechanisms are reinforced by trophic signals passed between the pre- and postsynaptic compartments. We also discuss how synapse and dendrite maintenance mechanisms are compromised in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / pathology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism*
  • Mental Disorders / pathology*
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / pathology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure