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Formation and Stability of Synaptic Receptor Domains

Christoph A. Haselwandter, Martino Calamai, Mehran Kardar, Antoine Triller and Rava Azeredo da Silveira

Neurotransmitter receptor molecules, concentrated in postsynaptic domains along with scaffold and a number of other molecules, are key regulators of signal transmission across synapses. Combining experiment and theory, we develop a quantitative description of synaptic receptor domains in terms of a reaction-diffusion model. We show that interactions between only receptors and scaffolds, together with the rapid diffusion of receptors on the cell membrane, are sufficient for the formation and stable characteristic size of synaptic receptor domains. Our work reconciles long-term stability of synaptic receptor domains with rapid turnover and diffusion of individual receptors, and suggests novel mechanisms for a form of short-term, postsynaptic plasticity.

Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Jun 10;106(23):238104.