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Biomedical Reviews

SNARE proteins as molecular masters of interneuronal communication

Danko Georgiev, James F. Glazebrook


In the beginning of the 20th century the groundbreaking work of Ramon y Cajal firmly established the neuron doctrine, according to which neurons are the basic structural and functional units of the nervous system. Von Weldeyer coined the term "neuron" in 1891, but the huge leap forward in neuroscience was due to Cajal's meticulous microscopic observations of brain sections stained with an improved version of Golgi's la reazione nera (black reaction). The latter improvement of Golgi's technique made it possible to visualize the arborizations of single neurons that were "colored brownish black even to their finest branchlets, standing out with unsurpassable clarity upon a transparent yellow background. All was sharp as a sketch with Chinese ink". The high quality of both the visualization of individual nerve cells and the work performed on studying the anatomy of the central nervous system lead Ramon y Cajal to the conclusion that axons output the nervous impulses to the dendrites or the soma of other target neurons. The name "dendrite" was coined by His in 1889 and "axon" by von Kölliker in 1896, but it was Ramon y Cajal who developed and provided extensive anatomical evidence for the idea that neurons are dynamically polarized and within each neuron the transmission of information is from the dendrites towards the axon.

Biomedical Reviews 2010; 21: 17-23.

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About The Authors

Danko Georgiev
Kanazawa University

James F. Glazebrook
Eastern Illinois University
United States

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