Cellular mechanisms governing synapse formation: Lessons from identified neurons in culture Academic Article uri icon


  • The accessibility of embryonic and adult neurons within invertebrate nervous systems has made them excellent subjects for neurobiological study. The ability to readily identify individual neurons, together with their great capacity for regeneration, has been especially beneficial to investigations of synapse formation and the specificity of neuronal connectivity. Many invertebrate neurons survive for long periods following isolation into primary cell culture. In addition, they readily extend new neuritic arbors and form electrical and chemical connections at sites of contact. Thus, cell culture approaches have allowed neuroscientists greater access to, and resolution of, events underlying neurite outgrowth and synaptogenesis. Studies of identified neuromuscular synapses of Helisoma have determined a number of signaling mechanisms involved in transsynaptic communication at sites of neuron-target contact. At these sites, both anterograde and retrograde signals regulate the transformation of growth cones into functional presynaptic terminals. We have found that specific muscle targets induce both global and local changes in neurotransmitter secretion and intracellular calcium handling. Here we review recent studies of cultured Helisoma synapses and discuss the mechanisms thought to govern chemical synapse formation in these identified neurons and those of other invertebrate species.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Zoran, M. J., & Poyer, J. C.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Zoran, MJ||Poyer, JC

publication date

  • June 1996