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Functional polarity in neurons: what can we learn from studying an exception?

journal contribution
posted on 01.10.2010, 00:00 by Nathan UrbanNathan Urban, Jason B. Castro

Dendrites and axons typically handle very different aspects of neuronal signaling. However, many of the functional distinctions between these two types of processes are absent in neurons with release-competent dendrites. This raises fundamental questions about the molecular mechanisms that promote and permit functional specialization, and suggests that the 'exceptional' case of presynaptic dendrites may provide important clues on how neuronal polarity is established. To help stimulate thinking on this new front, we summarize some key aspects of the physiology of dendritic neurotransmitter release, together with recent work on the molecular basis of neuronal polarity.