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Formation of functional synaptic connections between cultured cortical neurons from agrin-deficient mice.

  • Author(s): Li, Zhen
  • Hilgenberg, Lutz G.W.
  • O'Dowd, Diane K
  • Smith, Martin A
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license
Abstract

Numerous studies suggest that the extracellular matrix protein agrin directs the formation of the postsynaptic apparatus at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Strong support for this hypothesis comes from the observation that the high density of acetylcholine receptors (AChR) normally present at the neuromuscular junction fails to form in muscle of embryonic agrin mutant mice. Agrin is expressed by many populations of neurons in the central nervous system (CNS), suggesting that this molecule may also play a role in neuron-neuron synapse formation. To test this hypothesis, we examined synapse formation between cultured cortical neurons isolated from agrin-deficient mouse embryos. Our data show that glutamate receptors accumulate at synaptic sites on agrin-deficient neurons. Moreover, electrophysiological analysis demonstrates that functional glutamatergic and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic synapses form between mutant neurons. The frequency and amplitude of miniature postsynaptic glutamatergic and GABAergic currents are similar in mutant and age-matched wild-type neurons during the first 3 weeks in culture. These results demonstrate that neuron-specific agrin is not required for formation and early development of functional synaptic contacts between CNS neurons, and suggest that mechanisms of interneuronal synaptogenesis are distinct from those regulating synapse formation at the neuromuscular junction.

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