Synapse adhesion: a dynamic equilibrium conferring stability and flexibility

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;22(3):397-404. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.09.011. Epub 2011 Oct 21.


Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) linked to cytoskeleton generate stable cell-cell junctions. Cadherins provide a canonical example, but paradoxically, they participate in a multitude of transient and regulatable interactions. Their extracellular binding generates weak adhesion that is modified by clustering; interactions with F-actin are regulated, can be transient, and can alter F-actin dynamics. Additionally, cadherin recycling from the cell surface can modify the size and location of junctions and strength of adhesion. In epithelial cells, this ongoing dynamic behavior is important for maintaining stable junctions. Recent work supports that cadherins act similarly at synapses where their actions are likely to be shared by integrins and other actin-linked CAMs. Together the collaborative activities of such CAMs provide a stable, but flexible structure that can promote and support changes in synapse shape and size while maintaining stable junctions to permit information flow.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules