Emerging Synaptic Molecules as Candidates in the Etiology of Neurological Disorders
INTRODUCTION In recent years, the concept of 'synaptopathy' has been extended from neurodegenerative and neurological disorders to psychiatric diseases. According to this nascent line of research, disruption in synaptic structure and function acts as the main determinant of mental illness. Therefore, molecular systems and processes crucial for synaptic activity may represent promising therapeutic targets. AREAS COVERED We review data on synaptic structural alterations in depression and schizophrenia and on specific molecular systems and/or mechanisms important for the maintenance of proper synaptic function. Specifically, we examine the involvement of the neuroligin system, the local protein translation, and the neurotrophin BDNF by reviewing clinical and preclinical studies, with particular attention to results provided by using animal models based on the role of stress in psychiatric diseases. Finally, we also discuss the impact of pharmacological treatment on these molecular systems/mechanisms. EXPERT OPINION The relevance of synaptic dysfunctions in psychiatric diseases is undoubted and the potential to normalize, ameliorate, and shape such alterations by acting on molecular systems crucial to ensure synaptic function property is fascinating. However, future studies are required to elucidate several open issues.