Neurexins and neuroligins: synapses look out of the nervous system

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2011 Aug;68(16):2655-66. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0664-z. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


The scientific interest in the family of the so-called nervous vascular parallels has been growing steadily for the past 15 years, either by addition of new members to the group or, lately, by deepening the analysis of established concepts and mediators. Proteins governing both neurons and vascular cells are known to be involved in events such as cell fate determination and migration/guidance but not in the last and apparently most complex step of nervous system development, the formation and maturation of synapses. Hence, the recent addition to this family of the specific synaptic proteins, Neurexin and Neuroligin, is a double innovation. The two proteins, which were thought to be "simple" adhesive links between the pre- and post-synaptic sides of chemical synapses, are in fact extremely complex and modulate the most subtle synaptic activities. We will discuss the relevant data and the intriguing challenge of transferring synaptic activities to vascular functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / metabolism
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / physiology*
  • Drosophila
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Mice
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Nrxn1 protein, mouse
  • neuroligin 1