Sculpting neural circuits by axon and dendrite pruning

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2015:31:779-805. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100913-013038. Epub 2015 Oct 2.


The assembly of functional neural circuits requires the combined action of progressive and regressive events. Regressive events encompass a variety of inhibitory developmental processes, including axon and dendrite pruning, which facilitate the removal of exuberant neuronal connections. Most axon pruning involves the removal of axons that had already made synaptic connections; thus, axon pruning is tightly associated with synapse elimination. In many instances, these developmental processes are regulated by the interplay between neurons and glial cells that act instructively during neural remodeling. Owing to the importance of axon and dendritic pruning, these remodeling events require precise spatial and temporal control, and this is achieved by a range of distinct molecular mechanisms. Disruption of these mechanisms results in abnormal pruning, which has been linked to brain dysfunction. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms of axon and dendritic pruning will be instrumental in advancing our knowledge of neural disease and mental disorders.

Keywords: Wallerian degeneration; axon retraction; circuit refinement; dendrite severing; neurite remodeling; synapse elimination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology