Molecular mechanisms underlying maturation and maintenance of the vertebrate neuromuscular junction

Trends Neurosci. 2012 Jul;35(7):441-53. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2012.04.005. Epub 2012 May 25.


The vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ), a peripheral synapse formed between motoneuron and skeletal muscle, is characterized by a protracted postnatal period of maturation and life-long maintenance. In neuromuscular disorders such as congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMSs), disruptions of NMJ maturation and/or maintenance are frequently observed. In particular, defective neuromuscular transmission associated with structural and molecular abnormalities at the pre- and postsynaptic membranes, as well as at the synaptic cleft, has been reported in these patients. Here, we review recent advances in the understanding of molecular and cellular events that mediate NMJ maturation and maintenance. The underlying regulatory mechanisms, including key molecular regulators at the presynaptic nerve terminal, synaptic cleft, and postsynaptic muscle membrane, are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Junction / anatomy & histology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*