Glutamatergic synapses in neurodevelopmental disorders

E Moretto, L Murru, G Martano, J Sassone, M Passafaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are a group of diseases whose symptoms arise during childhood or adolescence and that impact several higher cognitive functions such as learning, sociability and mood. Accruing evidence suggests that a shared pathogenic mechanism underlying these diseases is the dysfunction of glutamatergic synapses. We summarize present knowledge on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), Down syndrome (DS), Rett syndrome (RS) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), highlighting the involvement of glutamatergic synapses and receptors in these disorders. The most commonly shared defects involve α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl- 4-isoxazole propionic acid receptors (AMPARs), N-methyl-. d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) and metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), whose functions are strongly linked to synaptic plasticity, affecting both cell-autonomous features as well as circuit formation. Moreover, the major scaffolding proteins and, thus, the general structure of the synapse are often deregulated in neurodevelopmental disorders, which is not surprising considering their crucial role in the regulation of glutamate receptor positioning and functioning. This convergence of defects supports the definition of neurodevelopmental disorders as a continuum of pathological manifestations, suggesting that glutamatergic synapses could be a therapeutic target to ameliorate patient symptomatology. © 2017.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-342
Number of pages15
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue numberPart B
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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