The secrets of a functional synapse - From a computational and experimental viewpoint

Michal Linial*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Neuronal communication is tightly regulated in time and in space. The neuronal transmission takes place in the nerve terminal, at a specialized structure called the synapse. Following neuronal activation, an electrical signal triggers neurotransmitter (NT) release at the active zone. The process starts by the signal reaching the synapse followed by a fusion of the synaptic vesicle and diffusion of the released NT in the synaptic cleft, the NT then binds to the appropriate receptor, and as a result, a potential change at the target cell membrane is induced. The entire process lasts for only a fraction of a millisecond. An essential property of the synapse is its capacity to undergo biochemical and morphological changes, a phenomenon that is referred to as synaptic plasticity. Results: In this survey, we consider the mammalian brain synapse as our model. We take a cell biological and a molecular perspective to present fundamental properties of the synapse:(i) the accurate and efficient delivery of organelles and material to and from the synapse; (ii) the coordination of gene expression that underlies a particular NT phenotype; (iii) the induction of local protein expression in a subset of stimulated synapses. We describe the computational facet and the formulation of the problem for each of these topics. Conclusion: Predicting the behavior of a synapse under changing conditions must incorporate genomics and proteomics information with new approaches in computational biology.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberS6
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue numberSUPPL.1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2006


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