Synapses and Neuromuscular Junctions

  • Alan L. Harvey


The primary purpose of nerve cells is to facilitate intercellular communication. Hence, a fundamental property of neurones is the ability to form functional connections with other nerve cells or with effector cells. How the nervous system develops and what controls its exquisite specificity are two of the major questions in biology. Although the answers must come largely from genetic approaches, some informative experiments can be performed utilizing tissue culture methods to provide simple models of the nervous system. For example, culture systems could be useful for investigations of synaptic development, of the limits of synaptic specificity, and of long-term regulatory effects (the so-called trophic functions of neurones). Cell cultures could also be used to determine which properties are intrinsic to the nerve and which develop only after establishment of normal environmental influences. In contrast to the potential value of tissue culture in such studies, it is probably true to say that the technique does not offer many obvious advantages for the study of synaptic pharmacology other than the chance to make available otherwise inaccessible areas of the nervous system. Moreover, methods may be devised for growing functional synapses between two defined types of nerve cell, thus allowing pharmacological experiments to be made on a precisely defined system.


Dorsal Root Ganglion Neuromuscular Junction Superior Cervical Ganglion Excitatory Postsynaptic Potential Nodose Ganglion 
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Copyright information

© Alan L. Harvey 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan L. Harvey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and PharmacologyUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK

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