The perineuronal net and the control of CNS plasticity

Difei Wang, James Fawcett
Cell and Tissue Research 2012, 349 (1): 147-60
Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are reticular structures that surround the cell body of many neurones, and extend along their dendrites. They are considered to be a specialized extracellular matrix in the central nervous system (CNS). PNN formation is first detected relatively late in development, as the mature synaptic circuitry of the CNS is established and stabilized. Its unique distribution in different CNS regions, the timing of its establishment, and the changes it undergoes after injury all point toward diverse and important functions that it may be performing. The involvement of PNNs in neuronal plasticity has been extensively studied over recent years, with developmental, behavioural, and functional correlations. In this review, we will first briefly detail the structure and organization of PNNs, before focusing our discussion on their unique roles in neuronal development and plasticity. The PNN is an important regulator of CNS plasticity, both during development and into adulthood. Production of critical PNN components is often triggered by appropriate sensory experiences during early postnatal development. PNN deposition around neurones helps to stabilize the established neuronal connections, and to restrict the plastic changes due to future experiences within the CNS. Disruption of PNNs can reactivate plasticity in many CNSs, allowing activity-dependent changes to once again modify neuronal connections. The mechanisms through which PNNs restrict CNS plasticity remain unclear, although recent advances promise to shed additional light on this important subject.

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