Article

Kalirin-7 is required for synaptic structure and function.

Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.91). 12/2008; 28(47):12368-82. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4269-08.2008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Rho GTPases activated by GDP/GTP exchange factors (GEFs) play key roles in the developing and adult nervous system. Kalirin-7 (Kal7), the predominant adult splice form of the multifunctional Kalirin RhoGEF, includes a PDZ [postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95)/Discs large (Dlg)/zona occludens-1 (ZO-1)] binding domain and localizes to the postsynaptic side of excitatory synapses. In vitro studies demonstrated that overexpression of Kal7 increased dendritic spine density, whereas reduced expression of endogenous Kal7 decreased spine density. To evaluate the role of Kal7 in vivo, mice lacking the terminal exon unique to Kal7 were created. Mice lacking both copies of the Kal7 exon (Kal7(KO)) grew and reproduced normally. Golgi impregnation and electron microscopy revealed decreased hippocampal spine density in Kal7(KO) mice. Behaviorally, Kal7(KO) mice showed decreased anxiety-like behavior in the elevated zero maze and impaired acquisition of a passive avoidance task, but normal behavior in open field, object recognition, and radial arm maze tasks. Kal7(KO) mice were deficient in hippocampal long-term potentiation. Western blot analysis confirmed the absence of Kal7 and revealed compensatory increases in larger Kalirin isoforms. PSDs purified from the cortices of Kal7(KO) mice showed a deficit in Cdk5, a kinase known to phosphorylate Kal7 and play an essential role in synaptic function. The early stages of excitatory synaptic development proceeded normally in cortical neurons prepared from Kal7(KO) mice, with decreased excitatory synapses apparent only after 21 d in vitro. Expression of exogenous Kal7 in Kal7(KO) neurons rescued this deficit. Kal7 plays an essential role in synaptic structure and function, affecting a subset of cognitive processes.

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