Synapse elimination is a normal developmental process occurring throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Meanwhile, gradual and early loss of synapses is a characteristic that is common to several neurodegenerative disease states. Recent evidence has emerged implicating molecules canonically involved in the immune system and inflammation accompanying neurodegeneration (e.g. classical complement cascade) as important players in the normal elimination of synapses in the developing nervous system. As a result, a question has emerged as to whether mechanisms underlying elimination of synapses during normal development are recapitulated and contribute to early synapse loss and nervous system dysfunction during neurodegenerative disease. The present review explores this possibility and provides a description of many neuroimmune proteins that may participate in the elimination of synapses and synaptic dysfunction in the developing and diseased brain.

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