Neurotrophins and neuronal differentiation in the central nervous system
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The central nervous system requires the proper formation of exquisitely precise circuits to function properly. These neuronal circuits are assembled during development by the formation of synaptic connections between hundreds of thousands of differentiating neurons. For these circuits to form correctly, neurons must elaborate precisely patterned axonal and dendritic arbors. Although the cellular and molecular mechanisms that guide neuronal differentiation and formation of connections remain mostly unknown, the neurotrophins have emerged recently as attractive candidates for regulating neuronal differentiation in the developing brain. The experiments reviewed here provide strong support for a bifunctional role for the neurotrophins in axonal and dendritic growth and are consistent with the exciting possibility that the neurotrophins might mediate activity-dependent synaptic plasticity.
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