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Neurotrophin signaling among neurons and glia during formation of tripartite synapses

  • SARINA B. ELMARIAH (a1), ETHAN G. HUGHES (a1), EUN JOO OH (a1) and RITA J. BALICE-GORDON (a1)

Abstract

Synapse formation in the CNS is a complex process that involves the dynamic interplay of numerous signals exchanged between pre- and postsynaptic neurons as well as perisynaptic glia. Members of the neurotrophin family, which are widely expressed in the developing and mature CNS and are well-known for their roles in promoting neuronal survival and differentiation, have emerged as key synaptic modulators. However, the mechanisms by which neurotrophins modulate synapse formation and function are poorly understood. Here, we summarize our work on the role of neurotrophins in synaptogenesis in the CNS, in particular the role of these signaling molecules and their receptors, the Trks, in the development of excitatory and inhibitory hippocampal synapses. We discuss our results that demonstrate that postsynaptic TrkB signaling plays an important role in modulating the formation and maintenance of NMDA and GABAA receptor clusters at central synapses, and suggest that neurotrophin signaling coordinately modulates these receptors as part of mechanism that promotes the balance between excitation and inhibition in developing circuits. We also discuss our results that demonstrate that astrocytes promote the formation of GABAergic synapses in vitro by differentially regulating the development of inhibitory presynaptic terminals and postsynaptic GABAA receptor clusters, and suggest that glial modulation of inhibitory synaptogenesis is mediated by neurotrophin-dependent and -independent signaling. Together, these findings extend our understanding of how neuron–glia communication modulates synapse formation, maintenance and function, and set the stage for defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which neurotrophins and other cell–cell signals direct synaptogenesis in the developing brain.

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Corresponding author

Rita Balice-Gordon Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 215 Stemmler Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6074, USA. phone: +1 215 8981037; fax: +1 215 5739122. email: rbaliceg@mail.med.upenn.edu

Keywords

Neurotrophin signaling among neurons and glia during formation of tripartite synapses

  • SARINA B. ELMARIAH (a1), ETHAN G. HUGHES (a1), EUN JOO OH (a1) and RITA J. BALICE-GORDON (a1)

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