Gap junction-mediated electrical transmission: regulatory mechanisms and plasticity

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Jan;1828(1):134-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2012.05.026. Epub 2012 May 31.


The term synapse applies to cellular specializations that articulate the processing of information within neural circuits by providing a mechanism for the transfer of information between two different neurons. There are two main modalities of synaptic transmission: chemical and electrical. While most efforts have been dedicated to the understanding of the properties and modifiability of chemical transmission, less is still known regarding the plastic properties of electrical synapses, whose structural correlate is the gap junction. A wealth of data indicates that, rather than passive intercellular channels, electrical synapses are more dynamic and modifiable than was generally perceived. This article will discuss the factors determining the strength of electrical transmission and review current evidence demonstrating its dynamic properties. Like their chemical counterparts, electrical synapses can also be plastic and modifiable. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The Communicating junctions, roles and dysfunctions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Connexins / physiology
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Synaptic Potentials
  • Synaptic Transmission*


  • Connexins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents