Gap junctions as electrical synapses. Academic Article uri icon


  • Gap junctions are the morphological substrate of one class of electrical synapse. The history of the debate on electrical vs. chemical transmission is instructive. One lesson is that Occam's razor sometimes cuts too deep; the nervous system does its operations in a number of different ways and a unitarian approach can lead one astray. Electrical synapses can do many things that chemical synapses can do, and do them just as slowly. More intriguing are the modulatory actions that chemical synapses can have on electrical synapses. Voltage dependence provides an important window on structure function relations of the connexins, even where the dependence may have no physiological role. The new molecular approaches will greatly advance our knowledge of where gap junctions occur and permit experimental manipulation with high specificity.

publication date

  • June 1997