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Postsynaptic assembly induced by neurexin-neuroligin interaction and neurotransmitter

  • Author(s): Nam, C I
  • Chen, L
  • et al.
Abstract

Presynaptic and postsynaptic differentiation occurs at axodendritic contacts between CNS neurons. Synaptic adhesion mediated by synaptic cell adhesion molecule (SynCAM) and beta-neurexins/neuroligins triggers presynaptic differentiation. The signals that trigger postsynaptic differentiation are, however, unknown. Here we report that beta-neurexin expressed in nonneuronal cells induced postsynaptic density (PSD)-95 clustering in contacting dendrites of hippocampal neurons. The effect is specific to beta-neurexin and was not observed with other synaptic cell adhesion molecules such as N-cadherin or SynCAM. NMDA receptors, but not alpha-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate receptors (AMPARS), were recruited to this beta-neurexin-induced PSD-95 scaffold. Remarkably, AMPARs were inserted into this scaffold upon glutamate application or expression of a constitutively active form of calmodulin kinase II in neurons. Expression of a dominant-negative neuroligin-1 in cultured neurons markedly reduced the sizes and densities of PSD-95 puncta and AMPAR clusters. In addition, excitatory, but not inhibitory, synaptic functions were impaired in these neurons, confirming that PSD-95/neuroligin-1 interaction is involved in postsynaptic assembly at glutamatergic synapses. These results demonstrate that postsynaptic assembly of the glutamatergic synapse may be initiated by presynaptic beta-neurexin and that glutamate release also is required for maturation of synapses.

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