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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 670821, 14 pages
Review Article

Synaptic Functions of Invertebrate Varicosities: What Molecular Mechanisms Lie Beneath

1Department of Neuroscience, University of Torino, Corso Raffaello 30, 10125 Torino, Italy
2Istituto Nazionale di Neuroscienze, Corso Raffaello 30, 10125 Torino, Italy

Received 30 November 2011; Accepted 27 February 2012

Academic Editor: Volker Korz

Copyright © 2012 Carlo Natale Giuseppe Giachello et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In mammalian brain, the cellular and molecular events occurring in both synapse formation and plasticity are difficult to study due to the large number of factors involved in these processes and because the contribution of each component is not well defined. Invertebrates, such as Drosophila, Aplysia, Helix, Lymnaea, and Helisoma, have proven to be useful models for studying synaptic assembly and elementary forms of learning. Simple nervous system, cellular accessibility, and genetic simplicity are some examples of the invertebrate advantages that allowed to improve our knowledge about evolutionary neuronal conserved mechanisms. In this paper, we present an overview of progresses that elucidates cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying synaptogenesis and synapse plasticity in invertebrate varicosities and their validation in vertebrates. In particular, the role of invertebrate synapsin in the formation of presynaptic terminals and the cell-to-cell interactions that induce specific structural and functional changes in their respective targets will be analyzed.