Candidate autism gene screen identifies critical role for cell-adhesion molecule CASPR2 in dendritic arborization and spine development.
ABSTRACT: Mutations in the contactin-associated protein 2 (CNTNAP2) gene encoding CASPR2, a neurexin-related cell-adhesion molecule, predispose to autism, but the function of CASPR2 in neural circuit assembly remains largely unknown. In a knockdown survey of autism candidate genes, we found that CASPR2 is required for normal development of neural networks. RNAi-mediated knockdown of CASPR2 produced a cell-autonomous decrease in dendritic arborization and spine development in pyramidal neurons, leading to a global decline in excitatory and inhibitory synapse numbers and a decrease in synaptic transmission without a detectable change in the properties of these synapses. Our data suggest that in addition to the previously described role of CASPR2 in mature neurons, where CASPR2 organizes nodal microdomains of myelinated axons, CASPR2 performs an earlier organizational function in developing neurons that is essential for neural circuit assembly and operates coincident with the time of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) pathogenesis.
Project description:Human autoantibodies to contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2) are often associated with neuropathic pain, and CASPR2 mutations have been linked to autism spectrum disorders, in which sensory dysfunction is increasingly recognized. Human CASPR2 autoantibodies, when injected into mice, were peripherally restricted and resulted in mechanical pain-related hypersensitivity in the absence of neural injury. We therefore investigated the mechanism by which CASPR2 modulates nociceptive function. Mice lacking CASPR2 (Cntnap2<sup>-/-</sup>) demonstrated enhanced pain-related hypersensitivity to noxious mechanical stimuli, heat, and algogens. Both primary afferent excitability and subsequent nociceptive transmission within the dorsal horn were increased in Cntnap2<sup>-/-</sup> mice. Either immune or genetic-mediated ablation of CASPR2 enhanced the excitability of DRG neurons in a cell-autonomous fashion through regulation of Kv1 channel expression at the soma membrane. This is the first example of passive transfer of an autoimmune peripheral neuropathic pain disorder and demonstrates that CASPR2 has a key role in regulating cell-intrinsic dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron excitability.
Project description:Contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) encodes for CASPR2, a multidomain single transmembrane protein belonging to the neurexin superfamily that has been implicated in a broad range of human phenotypes including autism and language impairment. Using a combination of biophysical techniques, including small angle x-ray scattering, single particle electron microscopy, analytical ultracentrifugation, and bio-layer interferometry, we present novel structural and functional data that relate the architecture of the extracellular domain of CASPR2 to a previously unknown ligand, Contactin1 (CNTN1). Structurally, CASPR2 is highly glycosylated and has an overall compact architecture. Functionally, we show that CASPR2 associates with micromolar affinity with CNTN1 but, under the same conditions, it does not interact with any of the other members of the contactin family. Moreover, by using dissociated hippocampal neurons we show that microbeads loaded with CASPR2, but not with a deletion mutant, co-localize with transfected CNTN1, suggesting that CNTN1 is an endogenous ligand for CASPR2. These data provide novel insights into the structure and function of CASPR2, suggesting a complex role of CASPR2 in the nervous system.
Project description:Contactin-associated protein-like 2 (Caspr2), also known as CNTNAP2, is a cell adhesion molecule that clusters voltage-gated potassium channels (Kv1.1/1.2) at the juxtaparanodes of myelinated axons and may regulate axonal excitability. As a component of the Kv1 complex, Caspr2 has been identified as a target in neuromyotonia and Morvan syndrome, but also in some cases of autoimmune limbic encephalitis (LE). How anti-Caspr2 autoimmunity is linked with the central neurological symptoms is still elusive. In the present study, using anti-Caspr2 antibodies from seven patients affected by pure LE, we determined that IgGs in the cerebrospinal fluid of four out seven patients were selectively directed against the N-terminal Discoïdin and LamininG1 modules of Caspr2. Using live immunolabeling of cultured hippocampal neurons, we determined that serum IgGs in all patients strongly targeted inhibitory interneurons. Caspr2 was highly detected on GAD65-positive axons that are surrounding the cell bodies and at the VGAT-positive inhibitory presynaptic contacts. Functional assays indicated that LE autoantibodies may induce alteration of Gephyrin clusters at inhibitory synaptic contacts. Next, we generated a Caspr2-Fc chimera to reveal Caspr2 receptors on hippocampal neurons localized at the somato-dendritic compartment and post-synapse. Caspr2-Fc binding was strongly increased on TAG-1-transfected neurons and conversely, Caspr2-Fc did not bind hippocampal neurons from TAG-1-deficient mice. Our data indicate that Caspr2 may participate as a cell recognition molecule in the dynamics of inhibitory networks. This study provides new insight into the potential pathogenic effect of anti-Caspr2 autoantibodies in central hyperexcitability that may be related with perturbation of inhibitory interneuron activity.
Project description:Heterozygous mutations in CNTNAP2 have been identified in patients with a range of complex phenotypes including intellectual disability, autism and schizophrenia. However heterozygous CNTNAP2 mutations are also found in the normal population. Conversely, homozygous mutations are rare in patient populations and have not been found in any unaffected individuals.We describe a consanguineous family carrying a deletion in CNTNAP2 predicted to abolish function of its protein product, CASPR2. Homozygous family members display epilepsy, facial dysmorphisms, severe intellectual disability and impaired language. We compared these patients with previously reported individuals carrying homozygous mutations in CNTNAP2 and identified a highly recognisable phenotype.We propose that CASPR2 loss produces a syndrome involving early-onset refractory epilepsy, intellectual disability, language impairment and autistic features that can be recognized as CASPR2 deficiency disorder. Further screening for homozygous patients meeting these criteria, together with detailed phenotypic and molecular investigations will be crucial for understanding the contribution of CNTNAP2 to normal and disrupted development.
Project description:Contactin-associated protein-like 2 (Caspr2) is a neurexin-like protein that has been associated with numerous neurological conditions. However, the specific functional roles that Caspr2 plays in the central nervous system and their underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Here, we report on a functional role for Caspr2 in the developing cerebellum. Using a combination of confocal microscopy, biochemical analyses, and behavioral testing, we show that loss of Caspr2 in the Cntnap2 -/- knockout mouse results in impaired Purkinje cell dendritic development, altered intracellular signaling, and motor coordination deficits. We also find that Caspr2 is highly enriched at synaptic specializations in the cerebellum. Using a proteomics approach, we identify type 1 inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R1) as a specific synaptic interaction partner of the Caspr2 extracellular domain in the molecular layer of the developing cerebellum. The interaction of the Caspr2 extracellular domain with IP3R1 inhibits IP3R1-mediated changes in cellular morphology. Together, our work defines a mechanism by which Caspr2 controls the development and function of the cerebellum and advances our understanding of how Caspr2 dysfunction might lead to specific brain disorders.
Project description:Central glutamatergic synapses and the molecular pathways that control them are emerging as common substrates in the pathogenesis of mental disorders. Genetic variation in the contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) gene, including copy number variations, exon deletions, truncations, single nucleotide variants, and polymorphisms have been associated with intellectual disability, epilepsy, schizophrenia, language disorders, and autism. CNTNAP2, encoded by Cntnap2, is required for dendritic spine development and its absence causes disease-related phenotypes in mice. However, the mechanisms whereby CNTNAP2 regulates glutamatergic synapses are not known, and cellular phenotypes have not been investigated in Cntnap2 knockout neurons. Here we show that CNTNAP2 is present in dendritic spines, as well as axons and soma. Structured illumination superresolution microscopy reveals closer proximity to excitatory, rather than inhibitory synaptic markers. CNTNAP2 does not promote the formation of synapses and cultured neurons from Cntnap2 knockout mice do not show early defects in axon and dendrite outgrowth, suggesting that CNTNAP2 is not required at this stage. However, mature neurons from knockout mice show reduced spine density and levels of GluA1 subunits of AMPA receptors in spines. Unexpectedly, knockout neurons show large cytoplasmic aggregates of GluA1. Here we characterize, for the first time to our knowledge, synaptic phenotypes in Cntnap2 knockout neurons and reveal a novel role for CNTNAP2 in GluA1 trafficking. Taken together, our findings provide insight into the biological roles of CNTNAP2 and into the pathogenesis of CNTNAP2-associated neuropsychiatric disorders.
Project description:Although genetic variations in several genes encoding for synaptic adhesion proteins have been found to be associated with autism spectrum disorders, one of the most consistently replicated genes has been CNTNAP2, encoding for contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2), a multidomain transmembrane protein of the neurexin superfamily. Using immunofluorescence confocal microscopy and complementary biochemical techniques, we compared wild-type CASPR2 to 12 point mutations identified in individuals with autism. In contrast to the wild-type protein, localized to the cell surface, some of the mutants show altered cellular disposition. In particular, CASPR2-D1129H is largely retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in HEK-293 cells and in hippocampal neurons. BiP/Grp78, Calnexin and ERp57, key ER chaperones, appear to be responsible for retention of this mutant and activation of one signaling pathway of the unfolded protein response (UPR). The presence of this mutation also lowers expression and activates proteosomal degradation. A frame-shift mutation that causes a form of syndromic epilepsy (CASPR2-1253*), results in a secreted protein with seemingly normal folding and oligomerization. Taken together, these data indicate that CASPR2-D1129H has severe trafficking abnormalities and CASPR2-1253* is a secreted soluble protein, suggesting that the structural or signaling functions of the membrane tethered form are lost. Our data support a complex genetic architecture in which multiple distinct risk factors interact with others to shape autism risk and presentation.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is thought to result from deviation from normal development of neural circuits and synaptic function. Many genes with mutation in ASD patients have been identified. Here we report that two molecules associated with ASD susceptibility, contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) and Abelson helper integration site-1 (AHI1), are required for synaptic function and ASD-related behavior in mice. Knockdown of CNTNAP2 or AHI1 in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the developing mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC) reduced excitatory synaptic transmission, impaired social interaction and induced mild vocalization abnormality. Although the causes of reduced excitatory transmission were different, pharmacological enhancement of AMPA receptor function effectively restored impaired social behavior in both CNTNAP2- and AHI1-knockdown mice. We conclude that reduced excitatory synaptic transmission in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the PFC leads to impaired social interaction and mild vocalization abnormality in mice.
Project description:Intragenic deletions of the contactin-associated protein-like 2 gene (CNTNAP2) have been found in patients with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, intellectual disability (ID), obsessive compulsive disorder, cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, stuttering, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A variety of molecular mechanisms, such as loss of transcription factor binding sites and perturbation of penetrance and expressivity, have been proposed to account for the phenotypic variability resulting from CNTNAP2 mutations. Deletions of both CNTNAP2 alleles produced truncated proteins lacking the transmembrane or some of the extracellular domains, or no protein at all. This observation can be extended to heterozygous intragenic deletions by assuming that such deletion-containing alleles lead to expression of a Caspr2 protein lacking one or several extracellular domains. Such altered forms of Capr2 proteins will lack the ability to bridge the intercellular space between neurons by binding to partners, such as CNTN1, CNTN2, DLG1, and DLG4. This presumed effect of intragenic deletions of CNTNAP2, and possibly other genes involved in connecting neuronal cells, represents a molecular basis for the postulated neuronal hypoconnectivity in autism and probably other neurodevelopmental disorders, including epilepsy, ID, language impairments and schizophrenia. Thus, CNTNAP2 may represent a paradigmatic case of a gene functioning as a node in a genetic and cellular network governing brain development and acquisition of higher cognitive functions.
Project description:Contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) has emerged as a prominent susceptibility gene implicated in multiple complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and schizophrenia (SCZ). The presence of seizure comorbidity in many of these cases, as well as inhibitory neuron dysfunction in Cntnap2 knockout (KO) mice, suggests CNTNAP2 may be crucial for proper inhibitory network function. However, underlying cellular mechanisms are unclear. Here we show that cultured Cntnap2 KO mouse neurons exhibit an inhibitory neuron-specific simplification of the dendritic tree. These alterations can be replicated by acute knockdown of CNTNAP2 in mature wild-type (WT) neurons and are caused by faulty dendrite stabilization rather than outgrowth. Using structured illumination microscopy (SIM) and stimulated-emission depletion microscopy (STED), two super-resolution imaging techniques, we uncovered relationships between nanoscale CNTNAP2 protein localization and dendrite arborization patterns. Employing yeast two-hybrid screening, biochemical analysis, in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA), SIM, and phenotype rescue, we show that these effects are mediated at the membrane by the interaction of CNTNAP2's C-terminus with calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine protein kinase (CASK), another ASD/ID risk gene. Finally, we show that adult Cntnap2 KO mice have reduced interneuron dendritic length and branching in particular cortical regions, as well as decreased CASK levels in the cortical membrane fraction. Taken together, our data reveal an interneuron-specific mechanism for dendrite stabilization that may provide a cellular mechanism for inhibitory circuit dysfunction in CNTNAP2-related disorders.