Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

Modification of Electrical Synapses

Science's STKE  20 Dec 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 315, pp. tw457
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3152005tw457

The brain has two main types of synapses, chemical and electrical. Electrical synapses represent a major form of communication between interneurons in the mammalian nervous system. They play an important role in synchronization of activity in local cell populations because their speed and reliability allow signals to spread across whole networks at a time scale that is sufficient to preserve precise timing of signals between distant neurons. Despite these potentially vital functions, electrical synapses have generally been regarded as stereotypic and nonflexible. However, Landisman and Connors found that transmission across electrical synapses can undergo long-term modifications just like transmission at chemical synapses. The modulation depends on activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors, which presumably trigger intracellular signal cascades modulating the connexins that constitute the electrical synapses.

C. E. Landisman, B. W. Connors, Long-term modulation of electrical synapses in the mammalian thalamus. Science 310, 1809-1813 (2005). [Abstract] [Full Text]