Research highlight

Moving synapses on developing neurons

Nature Communications

March 7, 2012

Live imaging of synaptic remodelling illustrates that developing interneuron dendrites form tentacle-like protrusions that guide synapses into their proper arrangement of distribution in the brain. The finding, reported in Nature Communications this week, suggests that this process is less stationary and more active than previously thought, and further understanding the mechanisms involved, could aid in the development of new therapies for the treatment of developmental brain disorders. Synaptic remodelling is crucial to the establishment of neural networks. The dendritic shafts of some specialized inhibitory interneurons in the brain are covered with excitatory synapses. Until now, it has been unclear just how they get there. Shigeo Okabe and colleagues used live cell imaging in an attempt to solve this mystery. They found that developing inhibitory interneurons form protrusions that make contacts with excitatory neurons and guide the movement of synapses back to the inhibitory interneuron dendrite. In addition, they determined that this process requires microtubules and a special regulator of cell motility, LIS-1. The authors conclude that these processes are required for normal brain development and suggest that understanding these mechanisms further, could potentially result in treatments for developmental brain disorders, such as lissencephaly.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1736

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