Molecular and functional asymmetry at a vertebrate electrical synapse

Neuron. 2013 Sep 4;79(5):957-69. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.06.037.


Electrical synapses are abundant in the vertebrate brain, but their functional and molecular complexities are still poorly understood. We report here that electrical synapses between auditory afferents and goldfish Mauthner cells are constructed by apposition of hemichannels formed by two homologs of mammalian connexin 36 (Cx36) and that, while Cx35 is restricted to presynaptic hemiplaques, Cx34.7 is restricted to postsynaptic hemiplaques, forming heterotypic junctions. This molecular asymmetry is associated with rectification of electrical transmission that may act to promote cooperativity between auditory afferents. Our data suggest that, in similarity to pre- and postsynaptic sites at chemical synapses, one side in electrical synapses should not necessarily be considered the mirror image of the other. While asymmetry based on the presence of two Cx36 homologs is restricted to teleost fish, it might also be based on differences in posttranslational modifications of individual connexins or in the complement of gap junction-associated proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Connexins / physiology
  • Electrical Synapses / metabolism*
  • Electrical Synapses / physiology
  • Fish Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fish Proteins / physiology
  • Gap Junction delta-2 Protein
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Goldfish
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Connexins
  • Fish Proteins
  • connexin 35 protein, vertebrate