Originally identified as repulsive axon guidance cues, Eph receptors and their cell surface-bound ligands ephrins have been increasingly implicated in the development and functional modulation of synapses. Two synaptic functions of ephrins and Eph receptors have now been well established by in vitro and in vivo studies, namely the induction and maintenance of dendritic spines and the regulation of synaptic plasticity. This chapter summarizes recent progress in this rapidly expanding area of ephrin-Eph research. An emerging view is that Eph receptors regulate spine morphology by activating multiple intracellular signaling cascades that involve Rho family GTPases. In contrast, genetic studies suggest that regulation of synaptic plasticity does not require extensive intracellular signaling.
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