Electrical synapses in mammalian CNS: Past eras, present focus and future directions

James I. Nagy, Alberto E. Pereda, John E. Rash

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Gap junctions provide the basis for electrical synapses between neurons. Early studies in well-defined circuits in lower vertebrates laid the foundation for understanding various properties conferred by electrical synaptic transmission. Knowledge surrounding electrical synapses in mammalian systems unfolded first with evidence indicating the presence of gap junctions between neurons in various brain regions, but with little appreciation of their functional roles. Beginning at about the turn of this century, new approaches were applied to scrutinize electrical synapses, revealing the prevalence of neuronal gap junctions, the connexin protein composition of many of those junctions, and the myriad diverse neural systems in which they occur in the mammalian CNS. Subsequent progress indicated that electrical synapses constitute key elements in synaptic circuitry, govern the collective activity of ensembles of electrically coupled neurons, and in part orchestrate the synchronized neuronal network activity and rhythmic oscillations that underlie fundamental integrative processes. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Gap Junction Proteins edited by Jean Claude Herve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-123
Number of pages22
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Cell localization
  • Connexins
  • Mixed chemical/electrical synapses
  • Neuronal gap junctions
  • Protein composition
  • Ultrastructural diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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