Molecular mechanisms of synaptic specificity in developing neural circuits

Neuron. 2010 Oct 6;68(1):9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.007.


The function of the brain depends on highly specific patterns of connections between populations of neurons. The establishment of these connections requires the targeting of axons and dendrites to defined zones or laminae, the recognition of individual target cells, the formation of synapses on particular regions of the dendritic tree, and the differentiation of pre- and postsynaptic specializations. Recent studies provide compelling evidence that transmembrane adhesion proteins of the immunoglobulin, cadherin, and leucine-rich repeat protein families, as well as secreted proteins such as semaphorins and FGFs, regulate distinct aspects of neuronal connectivity. These observations suggest that the coordinated actions of a number of molecular signals contribute to the specification and differentiation of synaptic connections in the developing brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Proteins
  • Nerve Net / cytology*
  • Nerve Net / growth & development*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Semaphorins / genetics
  • Semaphorins / metabolism
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Cadherins
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Semaphorins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors