Date: 20 Oct 2008

Mechanisms of Synapse Formation: Activity-Dependent Selection of Neurotransmitters and Receptors

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Specification of the neurotransmitters and receptors involved in a synapse is a key feature of development of the nervous system. Multiple mechanisms govern these aspects of neuronal differentiation. Among them electrical activity appears to be an important factor, engaging the functionality of the nervous system right from the beginning of its formation. In the developing Xenopus neuromuscular junction, the specification of neurotransmitters and receptors responds to a selection process that depends on calcium-mediated neuronal activity. This mechanism may provide a level of plasticity that is responsive to changes in environmental cues at very early stages of development.