Glycoproteins of the Synapse

  • James W. Gurd


In 1967 Rambourg and Leblond published a series of observations on the carbohydrate-rich cell coat present at the surface of a variety of cells in the rat. Included within this survey were results obtained with nervous tissue which demonstrated an enrichment of carbohydrate-containing material in the region of the synaptic cleft, an observation which was subsequently confirmed and extended by Pfenninger (1973). Lectincytochemical studies demonstrated the presence of receptors for concanavalin A and Ricinus communis lectin on postsynaptic membranes and showed that these receptors did not aggregate under the influence of added lectin, suggesting that they might interact, either directly or indirectly, with the underlying postsynaptic density (Bittiger and Schnebli, 1974; Matus et al., 1973; Cotman and Taylor, 1974; Kelly et al., 1976). In parallel with these observations, biochemical analysis of synaptosomes (Brunngraber et al., 1967) and synaptic membranes (Gombos et al., 1971; Breckenridge and Morgan, 1972; Breckenridge et al., 1972; Margolis et al., 1975; Morgan and Gombos, 1976; Churchill et al., 1976) confirmed the association of glycoproteins with these structures and provided initial information concerning the identity of these synaptic components (reviewed in Mahler, 1979). These findings, in conjunction with the rapidly growing body of information concerning the structure, biosynthesis, and function of glycoproteins in general (Sharon and Lis, 1982; Olden et al., 1982; Kornfeld and Kornfeld, 1985; Roth, 1987), stimulated a continuing interest in the identification and function of glycoproteins at the synapse. The present review will summarize current information relating to the identity, structure, and biochemical properties of glycoproteins associated with synaptic membranes, synaptic junctions, and postsynaptic densities. Of other organelles present at the synapse, mitochondria are deficient in glycoproteins (Zanetta et al., 1977a; Krusius et al., 1978), and the glycoprotein composition of synaptic vesicles is dealt with elsewhere in this volume (p. 309). A number of synaptic membrane proteins of known function are glycosylated [e.g., the sodium channel (Casadei et al.,1984), the 55-kDa subunit of the Na+/K+-ATPase (Dahl and Hokin, 1974), the muscarinic (Rauh et al.,1986) and nicotinic (Hucho, 1986) acetylcholine receptors, a glutamate binding protein (Michaelis, 1975), and the opiate receptor (Gioannini et al., 1982)] and their properties will not be discussed here.


Synaptic Cleft Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule Postsynaptic Density Synaptic Membrane Synaptic Plasma Membrane 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Gurd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Scarborough CampusUniversity of TorontoWest HillCanada

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