This chapter describes the structure and cytochemistry of chemical synapses. The synapses provide morphologically and functionally specialized contacts for an excitatory and inhibitory action between the nerve cells and between neurons and some non-neuronal cells. Cytochemistry and autoradiography present a link among the morphological, the biochemical and physiological studies. The majority of interneuronal synapses and the neuromuscular junctions in vertebrates are chemical synapses. Structurally, they have three basic components, which are the presynaptic part, the synaptic cleft, and the postsynaptic part. The other organelles and inclusions in the axonal endings probably have no specific role in the synaptic transmission as they are not found in all cases in the presynaptic element. Both cell membranes, which realize the direct conduction of bioelectrical information, the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes, are highly organized membrane systems, with corresponding structure, cytochemical characteristics, and enzyme equipment. The definite arrangement of the acidic and basic groups on the presynaptic and postsynaptic elements probably plays a determining role in the formation of the synaptic contacts during synaptogenesis. © 1982, Academic Press, Inc.
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