Recent insights into the genetic basis of neurological disease have led to the hypothesis that molecular pathways involved in synaptic growth, development, and stability are perturbed in a variety of mental disorders. Formation of a functional synapse is a complex process requiring stabilization of initial synaptic contacts by adhesive protein interactions, organization of presynaptic and postsynaptic specializations by scaffolding proteins, regulation of growth by intercellular signaling pathways, reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, and proper endosomal trafficking of synaptic growth signaling complexes. Many neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disability, have been linked to inherited mutations which perturb these processes. Our understanding of the basic biology of synaptogenesis is therefore critical to unraveling the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders.
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