This issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience contains several articles about aspects of the transmission of information and disease in the nervous system.

In his Review on page 188, Benjamin Kaupp compares and contrasts the chemosensory receptors and signalling mechanisms involved in olfaction in vertebrates and insects. The Opinion article on page 212 also focuses on chemosensory organs. Here, Shai Shaham argues that based on their similarities, chemosensory receptive endings could be used to model neuronal synapses.

Recently, it has become clear that many neuronal proteins are subject to palmitoylation — a reversible modification that enables dynamic control of neuronal function. On page 161, Fukata and Fukata describe the molecular mechanisms involved in palmitoylation and highlight its role in synaptic plasticity and neural development.

According to an emerging hypothesis, cell-to-cell transmission of disease-related proteins might occur in neurodegenerative diseases. Pathogenic prion proteins can induce misfolding of the non-pathogenic form of the protein and cause pathology to spread from one brain area to another. As Frost and Diamond discuss in a Progress article on page 155, recent studies suggest that the propagation of protein misfolding in several other neurodegenerative diseases might arise through similar mechanisms.

Finally, this month's issue also includes a Review that forms part of our ongoing article series on CNS precursors. The differentiation potential of cultured neural stem cells (NSCs) is central to their efficacy as therapies for neurodegenerative diseases and CNS injury. On page 176, Conti and Cattaneo describe the biological characteristics and functional properties of NSCs in various culture systems and discuss their physiological relevance.