Luo, ZG (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, Inst Neurosci, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,firstname.lastname@example.org
Synapses are specialized structures that mediate information flow between neurons and target cells, and thus are the basis for neuronal system to execute various functions, including learning and memory. There are around 10(11) neurons in the human brain, with each neuron receiving thousands of synaptic inputs, either excitatory or inhibitory. A synapse is an asymmetric structure that is composed of pre-synaptic axon terminals, synaptic cleft, and postsynaptic compartments. Synapse formation involves a number of cell adhesion molecules, extracellular factors, and intracellular signaling or structural proteins. After the establishment of synaptic connections, synapses undergo structural or functional changes, known as synaptic plasticity which is believed to be regulated by neuronal activity and a variety of secreted factors. This review summarizes recent progress in the field of synapse development, with particular emphasis on the work carried out in China during the past 10 years (1999-2009).