Characteristics and plasticity of electrical synaptic transmission

BMC Cell Biol. 2016 May 24;17 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12860-016-0091-y.


Electrical synapses are an omnipresent feature of nervous systems, from the simple nerve nets of cnidarians to complex brains of mammals. Formed by gap junction channels between neurons, electrical synapses allow direct transmission of voltage signals between coupled cells. The relative simplicity of this arrangement belies the sophistication of these synapses. Coupling via electrical synapses can be regulated by a variety of mechanisms on times scales ranging from milliseconds to days, and active properties of the coupled neurons can impart emergent properties such as signal amplification, phase shifts and frequency-selective transmission. This article reviews the biophysical characteristics of electrical synapses and some of the core mechanisms that control their plasticity in the vertebrate central nervous system.

Keywords: Amacrine cell; Connexin 36; Mauthner cell; MesV neuron; Photoreceptor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electrical Synapses / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*