Heparan Sulfate Organizes Neuronal Synapses through Neurexin Partnerships.
ABSTRACT: Synapses are fundamental units of communication in the brain. The prototypical synapse-organizing complex neurexin-neuroligin mediates synapse development and function and is central to a shared genetic risk pathway in autism and schizophrenia. Neurexin's role in synapse development is thought to be mediated purely by its protein domains, but we reveal a requirement for a rare glycan modification. Mice lacking heparan sulfate (HS) on neurexin-1 show reduced survival, as well as structural and functional deficits at central synapses. HS directly binds postsynaptic partners neuroligins and LRRTMs, revealing a dual binding mode involving intrinsic glycan and protein domains for canonical synapse-organizing complexes. Neurexin HS chains also bind novel ligands, potentially expanding the neurexin interactome to hundreds of HS-binding proteins. Because HS structure is heterogeneous, our findings indicate an additional dimension to neurexin diversity, provide a molecular basis for fine-tuning synaptic function, and open therapeutic directions targeting glycan-binding motifs critical for brain development.
Project description:Synaptic cell adhesion molecules, including the neurexin ligands, neuroligins (NLs) and leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins (LRRTMs), are thought to organize synapse assembly and specify synapse function. To test the synaptic role of these molecules in vivo, we performed lentivirally mediated knockdown of NL3, LRRTM1, and LRRTM2 in CA1 pyramidal cells of WT and NL1 KO mice at postnatal day (P)0 (when synapses are forming) and P21 (when synapses are largely mature). P0 knockdown of NL3 in WT or NL1 KO neurons did not affect excitatory synaptic transmission, whereas P0 knockdown of LRRTM1 and LRRTM2 selectively reduced AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic currents. P0 triple knockdown of NL3 and both LRRTMs in NL1 KO mice yielded greater reductions in AMPA and NMDA receptor-mediated currents, suggesting functional redundancy between NLs and LRRTMs during early synapse development. In contrast, P21 knockdown of LRRTMs did not alter excitatory transmission, whereas NL manipulations supported a role for NL1 in maintaining NMDA receptor-mediated transmission. These results show that neurexin ligands in vivo form a dynamic synaptic cell adhesion network, with compensation between NLs and LRRTMs during early synapse development and functional divergence upon synapse maturation.
Project description:Recently, leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins (LRRTMs) were found to be synaptic cell-adhesion molecules that, when expressed in nonneuronal cells, induce presynaptic differentiation in contacting axons. We now demonstrate that LRRTM2 induces only excitatory synapses, and that it also acts to induce synapses in transfected neurons similarly to neuroligin-1. Using affinity chromatography, we identified alpha- and beta-neurexins as LRRTM2 ligands, again rendering LRRTM2 similar to neuroligin-1. However, whereas neuroligins bind neurexins containing or lacking an insert in splice site #4, LRRTM2 only binds neurexins lacking an insert in splice site #4. Binding of neurexins to LRRTM2 can produce cell-adhesion junctions, consistent with a trans-interaction regulated by neurexin alternative splicing, and recombinant neurexin-1beta blocks LRRTM2's ability to promote presynaptic differentiation. Thus, our data suggest that two unrelated postsynaptic cell-adhesion molecules, LRRTMs and neuroligins, unexpectedly bind to neurexins as the same presynaptic receptor, but that their binding is subject to distinct regulatory mechanisms.
Project description:Neurexins and neuroligins are synaptic cell-adhesion molecules that are essential for normal synapse specification and function and are thought to bind to each other trans-synaptically, but such interactions have not been demonstrated directly. Here, we generated neurexin-1? and neuroligin-1 and neuroligin-2 fusion proteins containing complementary "split" GFP fragments positioned such that binding of neurexin-1? to neuroligin-1 or neuroligin-2 allowed GFP reconstitution without dramatically changing their binding affinities. GFP fluorescence was only reconstituted from split-GFP-modified neurexin-1? and neuroligin-1 if and after neurexin-1? bound to its neuroligin partner; reassociation of the split-GFP components with each other did not mediate binding. Using trans-cellular reconstitution of GFP fluorescence from split-GFP-modified neurexin-1? and neuroligins as an assay, we demonstrate that trans-synaptic neurexin/neuroligin binding indeed occurred when mouse hippocampal neurons formed synapses onto non-neuronal COS-7 cells expressing neuroligins or when mouse hippocampal neurons formed synapses with each other. This visualization of synapses by neurexin/neuroligin binding prompted us to refer to this approach as "SynView." Our data demonstrate that neurexin-1? forms a trans-synaptic complex with neuroligin-1 and neuroligin-2 and that this interaction can be used to label synapses in a specific fashion in vivo.
Project description:Neurexins and neuroligins play an essential role in synapse function, and their alterations are linked to autistic spectrum disorder. Interactions between neurexins and neuroligins regulate inhibitory and excitatory synaptogenesis in vitro through a "splice-insert signaling code." In particular, neurexin 1beta carrying an alternative splice insert at site SS#4 interacts with neuroligin 2 (found predominantly at inhibitory synapses) but much less so with other neuroligins (those carrying an insert at site B and prevalent at excitatory synapses). The structure of neurexin 1beta+SS#4 reveals dramatic rearrangements to the "hypervariable surface," the binding site for neuroligins. The splice insert protrudes as a long helix into space, triggers conversion of loop beta10-beta11 into a helix rearranging the binding site for neuroligins, and rearranges the Ca(2+)-binding site required for ligand binding, increasing its affinity. Our structures reveal the mechanism by which neurexin 1beta isoforms acquire neuroligin splice isoform selectivity.
Project description:Postsynaptic neuroligins are thought to perform essential functions in synapse validation and synaptic transmission by binding to, and dimerizing, presynaptic alpha- and beta-neurexins. To test this hypothesis, we examined the functional effects of neuroligin-1 mutations that impair only alpha-neurexin binding, block both alpha- and beta-neurexin binding, or abolish neuroligin-1 dimerization. Abolishing alpha-neurexin binding abrogated neuroligin-induced generation of neuronal synapses onto transfected non-neuronal cells in the so-called artificial synapse-formation assay, even though beta-neurexin binding was retained. Thus, in this assay, neuroligin-1 induces apparent synapse formation by binding to presynaptic alpha-neurexins. In transfected neurons, however, neither alpha- nor beta-neurexin binding was essential for the ability of postsynaptic neuroligin-1 to dramatically increase synapse density, suggesting a neurexin-independent mechanism of synapse formation. Moreover, neuroligin-1 dimerization was not required for either the non-neuronal or the neuronal synapse-formation assay. Nevertheless, both alpha-neurexin binding and neuroligin-1 dimerization were essential for the increase in apparent synapse size that is induced by neuroligin-1 in transfected neurons. Thus, neuroligin-1 performs diverse synaptic functions by mechanisms that include as essential components of alpha-neurexin binding and neuroligin dimerization, but extend beyond these activities.
Project description:Recent findings suggest that the neurexin-neuroligin link promotes both GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptogenesis, but the mechanism by which neurexins influence the clustering of appropriate neuroligins and postsynaptic differentiation remains unclear. Previous studies suggested that the presence or absence of alternatively spliced residues at splice site 4 (S4) in the neurexin LNS domain may regulate neurexin function. We demonstrate that addition of the S4 insert selectively reduces the ability of neurexin-1beta to cluster neuroligin-1/3/4 and glutamatergic postsynaptic proteins, although clustering of neuroligin-2 and GABAergic postsynaptic proteins remain strong. Furthermore, addition of the S4 insert decreases the binding affinity of neurexin-1beta to neuroligins-1 and -4 but has little effect on binding to neuroligins-2 and -3. Additional structure-function studies reveal the neurexin binding interface mediating synaptogenic activity to be composed primarily of residues in the beta2beta3, beta6beta7, and beta10beta11 loops on one rim of the LNS domain beta sandwich. Mutation of two predicted Ca(2+)-binding residues disrupts postsynaptic protein clustering and binding to neuroligins, consistent with previous findings that neurexin-neuroligin binding is Ca2+ dependent. Glutamatergic postsynaptic clustering was more readily disrupted by the mutagenesis than GABAergic postsynaptic protein clustering. Perhaps neurexins-neuroligins, or neurexin-1beta at least, is most important for GABA synapse formation or controlling the balance of GABA and glutamate synapses. These results suggest that differential neurexin-neuroligin binding affinities and splice variations may play an instructive role in postsynaptic differentiation.
Project description:Neuroligins and neurexins promote synapse development and validation by forming trans-synaptic bridges spanning the synaptic cleft. Select pairs promote excitatory and inhibitory synapses, with neuroligin 2 (NLGN2) limited to inhibitory synapses and neuroligin 1 (NLGN1) dominating at excitatory synapses. The cell-surface molecules, MAM domain-containing glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor 1 (MDGA1) and 2 (MDGA2), regulate trans-synaptic adhesion between neurexins and neuroligins, impacting NLGN2 and NLGN1, respectively. We have determined the molecular mechanism of MDGA action. MDGA1 Ig1-Ig2 is sufficient to bind NLGN2 with nanomolar affinity; its crystal structure reveals an unusual locked rod-shaped array. In the crystal structure of the complex, two MDGA1 Ig1-Ig2 molecules each span the entire NLGN2 dimer. Site-directed mutagenesis confirms the observed interaction interface. Strikingly, Ig1 from MDGA1 binds to the same region on NLGN2 as neurexins do. Thus, MDGAs regulate the formation of neuroligin-neurexin trans-synaptic bridges by sterically blocking access of neurexins to neuroligins.
Project description:Neurexins are presynaptic adhesion molecules that shape the molecular composition of synapses. Diversification of neurexins in numerous isoforms is believed to confer synapse-specific properties by engaging with distinct ligands. For example, a subset of neurexin molecules carry a heparan sulfate (HS) glycosaminoglycan that controls ligand binding, but how this post-translational modification is controlled is not known. Here, we observe that CA10, a ligand to neurexin in the secretory pathway, regulates neurexin-HS formation. CA10 is exclusively found on non-HS neurexin and CA10 expressed in neurons is sufficient to suppress HS addition and attenuate ligand binding and synapse formation induced by ligands known to recruit HS. This effect is mediated by a direct interaction in the secretory pathway that blocks the primary step of HS biosynthesis: xylosylation of the serine residue. NMR reveals that CA10 engages residues on either side of the serine that can be HS-modified, suggesting that CA10 sterically blocks xylosyltransferase access in Golgi. These results suggest a mechanism for the regulation of HS on neurexins and exemplify a new mechanism to regulate site-specific glycosylations.
Project description:Neurexins are essential presynaptic cell adhesion molecules that are linked to schizophrenia and autism and are subject to extensive alternative splicing. Here, we used a genetic approach to test the physiological significance of neurexin alternative splicing. We generated knockin mice in which alternatively spliced sequence #4 (SS4) of neuexin-3 is constitutively included but can be selectively excised by cre-recombination. SS4 of neurexin-3 was chosen because it is highly regulated and controls neurexin binding to neuroligins, LRRTMs, and other ligands. Unexpectedly, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 decreased postsynaptic AMPA, but not NMDA receptor levels, and enhanced postsynaptic AMPA receptor endocytosis. Moreover, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 abrogated postsynaptic AMPA receptor recruitment during NMDA receptor-dependent LTP. These phenotypes were fully rescued by constitutive excision of SS4 in neurexin-3. Thus, alternative splicing of presynaptic neurexin-3 controls postsynaptic AMPA receptor trafficking, revealing an unanticipated alternative splicing mechanism for trans-synaptic regulation of synaptic strength and long-term plasticity.
Project description:The composition of the beta-cell exocytic machinery is very similar to that of neuronal synapses, and the developmental pathway of beta-cells and neurons substantially overlap. beta-Cells secrete gamma-aminobutyric acid and express proteins that, in the brain, are specific markers of inhibitory synapses. Recently, neuronal coculture experiments have identified three families of synaptic cell-surface molecules (neurexins, neuroligins, and SynCAM) that drive synapse formation in vitro and that control the differentiation of nascent synapses into either excitatory or inhibitory fully mature nerve terminals. The inhibitory synapse-like character of the beta-cells led us to hypothesize that members of these families of synapse-inducing adhesion molecules would be expressed in beta-cells and that the pattern of expression would resemble that associated with neuronal inhibitory synaptogenesis. Here, we describe beta-cell expression of the neuroligins, neurexins, and SynCAM, and show that neuroligin expression affects insulin secretion in INS-1 beta-cells and rat islet cells. Our findings demonstrate that neuroligins and neurexins are expressed outside the central nervous system and help confer an inhibitory synaptic-like phenotype onto the beta-cell surface. Analogous to their role in synaptic neurotransmission, neurexin-neuroligin interactions may play a role in the formation of the submembrane insulin secretory apparatus.