Control of neuronal morphology and connectivity: Emerging developmental roles for gap junctional proteins

  • Baker M
  • Macagno E
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Recent evidence indicates that gap junction (GJ) proteins can play a critical role in controlling neuronal connectivity as well as cell morphology in the developing nervous system. GJ proteins may function analogously to cell adhesion molecules, mediating cellular recognition and selective neurite adhesion. Moreover, during synaptogenesis electrical synapses often herald the later establishment of chemical synapses, and thus may help facilitate activity-dependent sculpting of synaptic terminals. Recent findings suggest that the morphology and connectivity of embryonic leech neurons are fundamentally organized by the type and perhaps location of the GJ proteins they express. For example, ectopic expression in embryonic leech neurons of certain innexins that define small GJ-linked networks of cells leads to the novel coupling of the expressing cell into that network. Moreover, gap junctions appear to mediate interactions among homologous neurons that modulate process outgrowth and stability. We propose that the selective formation of GJs between developing neurons and perhaps glial cells in the CNS helps orchestrate not only cellular synaptic connectivity but also can have a pronounced effect on the arborization and morphology of those cells involved. © 2014 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adhesion
  • Connexin
  • Dendrite
  • Homolog avoidance
  • Innexin
  • Synaptogenesis
  • Tiling

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  • Michael W. Baker

  • Eduardo R. Macagno

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