Rac-maninoff and Rho-vel: The symphony of Rho-GTPase signaling at excitatory synapses

Joseph G. Duman, Francisco A. Blanco, Christopher A. Cronkite, Qin Ru, Kelly C. Erikson, Shalaka Mulherkar, Ali Bin Saifullah, Karen Firozi, Kimberley F. Tolias

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Synaptic connections between neurons are essential for every facet of human cognition and are thus regulated with extreme precision. Rho-family GTPases, molecular switches that cycle between an active GTP-bound state and an inactive GDP-bound state, comprise a critical feature of synaptic regulation. Rho-GTPases are exquisitely controlled by an extensive suite of activators (GEFs) and inhibitors (GAPs and GDIs) and interact with many different signalling pathways to fulfill their roles in orchestrating the development, maintenance, and plasticity of excitatory synapses of the central nervous system. Among the mechanisms that control Rho-GTPase activity and signalling are cell surface receptors, GEF/GAP complexes that tightly regulate single Rho-GTPase dynamics, GEF/GAP and GEF/GEF functional complexes that coordinate multiple Rho-family GTPase activities, effector positive feedback loops, and mutual antagonism of opposing Rho-GTPase pathways. These complex regulatory mechanisms are employed by the cells of the nervous system in almost every step of development, and prominently figure into the processes of synaptic plasticity that underlie learning and memory. Finally, misregulation of Rho-GTPases plays critical roles in responses to neuronal injury, such as traumatic brain injury and neuropathic pain, and in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, including intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Thus, decoding the mechanisms of Rho-GTPase regulation and function at excitatory synapses has great potential for combatting many of the biggest current challenges in mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-47
Number of pages34
JournalSmall GTPases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • AMPA receptor
  • Cdc42
  • LTD
  • LTP
  • NMDA receptor
  • Rac1
  • RhoA
  • dendritic spine


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