Synapses are regions of highly specialized contact between two cells. The clustered distribution of both ligandÂ·gated and voltageÂ· activated ion chanÂ· nels is one of the best known examples of molecular specialization in synaptic membranes. At the neuromuscular junction, ion channel clusÂ tering is responsible for rapid signal transmission and ensures that the postsynaptic response initiates a propagated action potential. At some excitatory synapses between neurons, potentiation of synaptic strength depends, in part, on coclustering of transmitter receptors. Thus, regulation of the ion channel distribution is not only important in signal transmission, but possibly also in synaptic plasticity. The mechanisms by which ion channels are anchored at synaptic sites, and the way in which this process is regulated by the nerve, are best understood at the neuromuscular junction. This review focuses on the neuromuscular junction, with discussions of both preÂ· and postsynaptic elements. Studies of the mechanisms of clustering in the central nervous system (CNS) are less well advanced. Therefore, three of the best characÂ terized examples are considered. Although ion channels are clustered in other parts of the neuron (e.g. nodes of Ranvier, axon hillock), this review is restricted to ion channel distribution at the synapse. THE
Annual Review of Neuroscience – Annual Reviews
Published: Mar 1, 1993
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