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PNAS 98 (20): 11009-11015

Copyright © 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences.

Colloquium Paper


Retrograde signaling at central synapses

Huizhong W. Tao Mu-ming Poo*

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 97420

Abstract: Transcellular retrograde signaling from the postsynaptic target cell to the presynaptic neuron plays critical roles in the formation, maturation, and plasticity of synaptic connections. We here review recent progress in our understanding of the retrograde signaling at developing central synapses. Three forms of potential retrograde signals—membrane-permeant factors, membrane-bound factors, and secreted factors—have been implicated at both developing and mature synapses. Although many of these signals may be active constitutively, retrograde factors produced in association with activity-dependent synaptic plasticity, e.g., long-term potentiation and long-term depression, are of particular interest, because they may induce modification of neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission, functions directly related to the processing and storage of information in the nervous system.

* To whom the correspondence and reprint requests should be addressed. E-mail: mpoo{at}

This paper was presented at the Inaugural Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, "Neural Signaling," held February 15–17, 2001, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC.

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