While the cholinergic neuromodulatory system and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) have been appreciated as permissive factors for developmental critical period plasticity in visual cortex, it was unknown why plasticity becomes limited after the critical period even in the presence of massive cholinergic projections to visual cortex. In this review we highlighted the recent progresses that started to shed light on the role of the nicotinic cholinergic neuromodulatory signaling on limiting juvenile form of plasticity in the adult brain. We introduce the Lynx family of proteins and Lynx1 as its representative, as endogenous proteins structurally similar to α-bungarotoxin with the ability to bind and modulate nAChRs to effectively regulate functional and structural plasticity. Remarkably, Lynx family members are expressed in distinct subpopulations of GABAergic interneurons, placing them in unique positions to potentially regulate the convergence of GABAergic and nicotinic neuromodulatory systems to regulate plasticity. Continuing studies of the potentially differential roles of Lynx family of proteins may further our understanding of the fundamentals of molecular and cell type-specific mechanisms of plasticity that we may be able to harness through nicotinic cholinergic signaling.
- Visual cortex