Neuroligins and neurexins: linking cell adhesion, synapse formation and cognitive function.
ABSTRACT Cell adhesion represents the most direct way of coordinating synaptic connectivity in the brain. Recent evidence highlights the importance of a trans-synaptic interaction between postsynaptic neuroligins and presynaptic neurexins. These transmembrane molecules bind each other extracellularly to promote adhesion between dendrites and axons. This signals the recruitment of presynaptic and postsynaptic molecules to form a functional synapse. Remarkably, neuroligins alone can induce the formation of fully functional presynaptic terminals in contacting axons. Conversely, neurexins alone can induce postsynaptic differentiation and clustering of receptors in dendrites. Therefore, the neuroligin-neurexin interaction has the unique ability to act as a bi-directional trigger of synapse formation. Here, we review several recent studies that offer clues as to how these proteins form synapses and how they might function in the brain to establish and modify neuronal network properties and cognition.
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ABSTRACT: Early-life stress is a key risk factor for the development of neuropsychiatric disorders later in life. Neuronal cell adhesion molecules have been strongly implicated in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders and in modulating social behaviors associated with these diseases. Neuroligin-2 is a synaptic cell adhesion molecule, located at the postsynaptic membrane of inhibitory GABAergic synapses, and is involved in synaptic stabilization and maturation. Alterations in neuroligin-2 expression have previously been associated with changes in social behavior linked to psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and autism. In this study, we show that early-life stress, induced by limited nesting and bedding material, leads to impaired social recognition and increased aggression in adult mice, accompanied by increased expression levels of hippocampal neuroligin-2. Viral overexpression of hippocampal neuroligin-2 in adulthood mimics early-life stress-induced alterations in social behavior and social cognition. Moreover, viral knockdown of neuroligin-2 in the adult hippocampus attenuates the early-life stress-induced behavioral changes. Our results highlight the importance of neuroligin-2 in mediating early-life stress effects on social behavior and social cognition and its promising role as a novel therapeutic target for neuropsychiatric disorders. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Psychoneuroendocrinology 02/2015; 55:128-143. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.02.016 · 5.59 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The origin and evolution of the nervous system is one of the most intriguing and enigmatic events in biology. The recent sequencing of complete genomes from early metazoan organisms provides a new platform to study the origins of neuronal gene families. This review explores the early metazoan expansion of the largest integral transmembrane protein family, the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which serve as molecular targets for a large subset of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in higher animals. GPCR repertories from four pre-bilaterian metazoan genomes were compared. This includes the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis and the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, which have primitive nervous systems (nerve nets), the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica and the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens, which lack nerve and muscle cells. Comparative genomics demonstrate that the rhodopsin and glutamate receptor families, known to be involved in neurotransmission in higher animals are also widely found in pre-bilaterian metazoans and possess substantial expansions of rhodopsin-family-like GPCRs. Furthermore, the emerging knowledge on the functions of adhesion GPCRs in the vertebrate nervous system provides a platform to examine possible analogous roles of their closest homologues in pre-bilaterians. Intriguingly, the presence of molecular components required for GPCR-mediated neurotransmission in pre-bilaterians reveals that they exist in both primitive nervous systems and nerve-cell-free environments, providing essential comparative models to better understand the origins of the nervous system and neurotransmission. © 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.Journal of Experimental Biology 02/2015; 218(4):562-571. DOI:10.1242/jeb.110312 · 3.00 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Short-term plasticity (STP) denotes changes in synaptic strength that last up to tens of seconds. It is generally thought that STP impacts information transfer across synaptic connections and may thereby provide neurons with, for example, the ability to detect input coherence, to maintain stability and to promote synchronization. STP is due to a combination of mechanisms, including vesicle depletion and calcium accumulation in synaptic terminals. Different forms of STP exist, depending on many factors, including synapse type. Recent evidence shows that synapse dependence holds true even for connections that originate from a single presynaptic cell, which implies that postsynaptic target cell type can determine synaptic short-term dynamics. This arrangement is surprising, since STP itself is chiefly due to presynaptic mechanisms. Target-specific synaptic dynamics in addition imply that STP is not a bug resulting from synapses fatiguing when driven too hard, but rather a feature that is selectively implemented in the brain for specific functional purposes. As an example, target-specific STP results in sequential somatic and dendritic inhibition in neocortical and hippocampal excitatory cells during high-frequency firing. Recent studies also show that the Elfn1 gene specifically controls STP at some synapse types. In addition, presynaptic NMDA receptors have been implicated in synapse-specific control of synaptic dynamics during high-frequency activity. We argue that synapse-specific STP deserves considerable further study, both experimentally and theoretically, since its function is not well known. We propose that synapse-specific STP has to be understood in the context of the local circuit, which requires combining different scientific disciplines ranging from molecular biology through electrophysiology to computer modeling.Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience 12/2013; 5:11. DOI:10.3389/fnsyn.2013.00011