Structural plasticity of interneurons in the adult brain: role of PSA-NCAM and implications for psychiatric disorders

Neurochem Res. 2013 Jun;38(6):1122-33. doi: 10.1007/s11064-013-0977-4. Epub 2013 Jan 26.


Neuronal structural plasticity is known to have a major role in cognitive processes and in the response of the CNS to aversive experiences. This type of plasticity involves processes ranging from neurite outgrowth/retraction or dendritic spine remodeling, to the incorporation of new neurons to the established circuitry. However, the study of how these structural changes take place has been focused mainly on excitatory neurons, while little attention has been paid to interneurons. The exploration of these plastic phenomena in interneurons is very important, not only for our knowledge of CNS physiology, but also for understanding better the etiology of different psychiatric and neurological disorders in which alterations in the structure and connectivity of inhibitory networks have been described. Here we review recent work on the structural remodeling of interneurons in the adult brain, both in basal conditions and after chronic stress or sensory deprivation. We also describe studies from our laboratory and others on the putative mediators of this interneuronal structural plasticity, focusing on the polysialylated form of the neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM). This molecule is expressed by some interneurons in the adult CNS and, through its anti-adhesive and insulating properties, may participate in the remodeling of their structure. Finally, we review recent findings on the possible implication of PSA-NCAM on the remodeling of inhibitory neurons in certain psychiatric disorders and their treatments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Interneurons / ultrastructure
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / biosynthesis*
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Sialic Acids / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Sialic Acids
  • Dopamine