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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 5214961, 14 pages
Review Article

Neuron-Glia Interactions in Neural Plasticity: Contributions of Neural Extracellular Matrix and Perineuronal Nets

1Department of Cell Morphology and Molecular Neurobiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, Ruhr-University, Universitätsstraße 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany
2International Graduate School of Neuroscience, Building FNO 01/114, Ruhr-University, Universitätsstraße 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany

Received 11 June 2015; Accepted 10 August 2015

Academic Editor: Daniela Carulli

Copyright © 2016 Egor Dzyubenko 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.


Synapses are specialized structures that mediate rapid and efficient signal transmission between neurons and are surrounded by glial cells. Astrocytes develop an intimate association with synapses in the central nervous system (CNS) and contribute to the regulation of ion and neurotransmitter concentrations. Together with neurons, they shape intercellular space to provide a stable milieu for neuronal activity. Extracellular matrix (ECM) components are synthesized by both neurons and astrocytes and play an important role in the formation, maintenance, and function of synapses in the CNS. The components of the ECM have been detected near glial processes, which abut onto the CNS synaptic unit, where they are part of the specialized macromolecular assemblies, termed perineuronal nets (PNNs). PNNs have originally been discovered by Golgi and represent a molecular scaffold deposited in the interface between the astrocyte and subsets of neurons in the vicinity of the synapse. Recent reports strongly suggest that PNNs are tightly involved in the regulation of synaptic plasticity. Moreover, several studies have implicated PNNs and the neural ECM in neuropsychiatric diseases. Here, we highlight current concepts relating to neural ECM and PNNs and describe an in vitro approach that allows for the investigation of ECM functions for synaptogenesis.