Interactions between cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) have long been accepted to have pivotal roles in neural development and regeneration. Recent data also support the involvement of several ECM molecules in synaptic plasticity. Here, we review the present knowledge of the underlying mechanisms. These include interactions with cell surface receptors for ECM molecules coupled to the cytoskeleton and tyrosine kinase activities, and interactions with ion channels or neurotransmitter receptors. We hypothesize that ECM molecules derived from neurons and glia might also shape synaptic plasticity through regulation of organelle trafficking, and by imposing diffusion constraints for neurotransmitters and trophic factors.
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