The electrical synapse: Molecular complexities at the gap and beyond

Dev Neurobiol. 2017 May;77(5):562-574. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22484. Epub 2017 Mar 8.


Gap junctions underlie electrical synaptic transmission between neurons. Generally perceived as simple intercellular channels, "electrical synapses" have demonstrated to be more functionally sophisticated and structurally complex than initially anticipated. Electrical synapses represent an assembly of multiple molecules, consisting of channels, adhesion complexes, scaffolds, regulatory machinery, and trafficking proteins, all required for their proper function and plasticity. Additionally, while electrical synapses are often viewed as strictly symmetric structures, emerging evidence has shown that some components forming electrical synapses can be differentially distributed at each side of the junction. We propose that the molecular complexity and asymmetric distribution of proteins at the electrical synapse provides rich potential for functional diversity. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 77: 562-574, 2017.

Keywords: connexin; electrical synapse; gap junction; innexin; synapse formation and plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrical Synapses*
  • Gap Junctions*