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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 5136286, 10 pages
Review Article

The Involvement of Neuron-Specific Factors in Dendritic Spinogenesis: Molecular Regulation and Association with Neurological Disorders

Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, Taiwan

Received 15 June 2015; Accepted 26 July 2015

Academic Editor: Deepak P. Srivastava

Copyright © 2016 Hsiao-Tang Hu 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.


Dendritic spines are the location of excitatory synapses in the mammalian nervous system and are neuron-specific subcellular structures essential for neural circuitry and function. Dendritic spine morphology is determined by the F-actin cytoskeleton. F-actin remodeling must coordinate with different stages of dendritic spinogenesis, starting from dendritic filopodia formation to the filopodia-spines transition and dendritic spine maturation and maintenance. Hundreds of genes, including F-actin cytoskeleton regulators, membrane proteins, adaptor proteins, and signaling molecules, are known to be involved in regulating synapse formation. Many of these genes are not neuron-specific, but how they specifically control dendritic spine formation in neurons is an intriguing question. Here, we summarize how ubiquitously expressed genes, including syndecan-2, NF1 (encoding neurofibromin protein), VCP, and CASK, and the neuron-specific gene CTTNBP2 coordinate with neurotransmission, transsynaptic signaling, and cytoskeleton rearrangement to control dendritic filopodia formation, filopodia-spines transition, and dendritic spine maturation and maintenance. The aforementioned genes have been associated with neurological disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), mental retardation, learning difficulty, and frontotemporal dementia. We also summarize the corresponding disorders in this report.