A fundamental physical interaction exists across the synapse. It is mediated by synaptic adhesion molecules, and is among the earliest and most indispensable of molecular events occurring during synaptogenesis. The regulation of adhesion molecules and their interactions with other synaptic proteins likely affect not only on synapse formation but also on ongoing synaptic function. We review research on one major family of postsynaptic adhesion molecules, neuroligins, which bind to their presynaptic partner neurexin across the synaptic cleft. We move from a structural overview to the broad cellular and synaptic context of neuroligins, intermolecular interactions, and molecular modifications that occur within a synapse. Finally, we examine evidence concerning the physiological functions of neuroligin in a cell and highlight areas requiring further investigation.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.