Neurotrophins improve synaptic transmission in the adult rodent diaphragm
- Cite this article as:
- Ermilov, L.G., Sieck, G.C., Zhan, W. et al. Neurophysiology (2007) 39: 284. doi:10.1007/s11062-007-0039-0
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Neurotrophins are usually viewed as secreted proteins that control long-term survival and differentiation of neurons. However, recent studies have established that among the most important functions of neurotrophins is their capacity to regulate synaptic functions and plasticity. When altering synaptic function, neurotrophins are able to produce two types of outcomes, an immediate effect on synaptic transmission and long-term control of synaptic structure and function. The first effect occurs within seconds or minutes after the neurotrophic factor has been applied and usually involves acute modification of synaptic transmission. The second effect takes hours and days, as protein synthesis is required to complete the structural changes. Neurotrophins and their receptors are expressed within the neuromuscular system, making these agents ideal candidates for the short-and long-term regulation of skeletal muscle function. For instance, neurotrophins can alter neuromuscular function acutely, by modulating the amount of neurotransmitter released with each nerve impulse, or chronically, by changing postsynaptic properties or the content and size of synaptic vesicles. It is obvious that the effects of neurotrophins depend on the specific neurotrophin involved (four neurotrophins have been found in mammals; these are nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and neurotrophins-3 and-4) and on the specific synapse being studied. Growing evidence highlights the role of neurotrophins in the development and function of neuromuscular synapses. This review will examine the role of neurotrophins in the regulation of neuromuscular transmission.