Robert W Burgess 1 Summary

The vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is one of the best studied models of synapse formation. This chapter summarizes the cellular and molecular lessons learned from these studies. It also specifies where these conclusions can be directly generalized to other models of synaptogenesis and where other systems may be using analogous but distinct mechanisms. In particular, it focuses on the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the NMJ, which has essential roles in its formation. Nerve-derived agrin is a component of the synaptic ECM and is an essential signal for postsynaptic differentiation in the muscle. Laminins are also ECM proteins that play a role in organizing the subsynaptic structure of the junction. Together these proteins, as well as other less well-defined mechanisms, direct the formation of the specialized point or cell-cell contact that matures into a highly organized functional NMJ.

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