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The teneurin C-terminal domain possesses nuclease activity and is apoptogenic.

  • Author(s): Ferralli, Jacqueline
  • Tucker, Richard P
  • Chiquet-Ehrismann, Ruth
  • et al.

Teneurins are type 2 transmembrane proteins expressed by developing neurons during periods of synaptogenesis and apoptosis. Neurons expressing teneurin-1 synapse with other teneurin-1-expressing neurons, and neurons expressing teneurin-2 synapse with other teneurin-2-expressing neurons. Knockdowns and mutations of teneurins lead to abnormal neuronal connections, but the mechanisms underlying teneurin action remain unknown. Teneurins appear to have evolved via horizontal gene transfer from prokaryotic proteins involved in bacterial self-recognition. The bacterial teneurin-like proteins contain a cytotoxic C-terminal domain that is encapsulated in a tyrosine-aspartic acid repeat barrel. Teneurins are likely to be organized in the same way, but it is unclear if the C-terminal domains of teneurins have cytotoxic properties. Here we show that expression of teneurin C-terminal domains or the addition of purified teneurin C-terminal domains leads to an increase in apoptosis in vitro The C-terminal domains of teneurins are most similar to bacterial nucleases, and purified C-terminal domains of teneurins linearize pcDNA3 and hydrolyze mitochondrial DNA. We hypothesize that yet to be identified stimuli lead to the release of the encapsulated teneurin C-terminal domain into the intersynaptic region, resulting in programmed cell death or the disruption of mitochondrial DNA and the subsequent pruning of inappropriate contacts.

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