[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Synaptic neurotransmission is known to be an energy demanding process. At the presynapse, ATP is required for loading neurotransmitters into synaptic vesicles, for priming synaptic vesicles before release, and as a substrate for various kinases and ATPases. Although it is assumed that presynaptic sites usually harbor local mitochondria, which may serve as energy powerhouse to generate ATP as well as a presynaptic calcium depot, a clear role of presynaptic mitochondria in biochemical functioning of the presynapse is not well-defined. Besides a few synaptic subtypes like the mossy fibers and the Calyx of Held, most central presynaptic sites are either en passant or tiny axonal terminals that have little space to accommodate a large mitochondrion. Here, we have used imaging studies to demonstrate that mitochondrial antigens poorly co-localize with the synaptic vesicle clusters and active zone marker in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and the cerebellum. Confocal imaging analysis on neuronal cultures revealed that most neuronal mitochondria are either somatic or distributed in the proximal part of major dendrites. A large number of synapses in culture are devoid of any mitochondria. Electron micrographs from neuronal cultures further confirm our finding that the majority of presynapses may not harbor resident mitochondria. We corroborated our ultrastructural findings using serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SBFSEM) and found that more than 60% of the presynaptic terminals lacked discernible mitochondria in the wild-type mice hippocampus. Biochemical fractionation of crude synaptosomes into mitochondria and pure synaptosomes also revealed a sparse presence of mitochondrial antigen at the presynaptic boutons. Despite a low abundance of mitochondria, the synaptosomal membranes were found to be highly enriched in ATP suggesting that the presynapse may possess alternative mechanism/s for concentrating ATP for its function. The potential mechanisms including local glycolysis and the possible roles of ATP-binding synaptic proteins such as synapsins, are discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CASK is an evolutionarily conserved scaffolding protein that has roles in many cell types. In Drosophila, loss of the entire CASK gene or just the CASK-β transcript causes a complex set of adult locomotor defects. In this study, we show that the motor initiation component of this phenotype is due to loss of CASK-β in dopaminergic neurons and can be specifically rescued by expression of CASK-β within this subset of neurons. Functional imaging demonstrates that mutation of CASK-β disrupts coupling of neuronal activity to vesicle fusion. Consistent with this, locomotor initiation can be rescued by artificially driving activity in dopaminergic neurons. The molecular mechanism underlying this role of CASK-β in dopaminergic neurons involves interaction with Hsc70-4, a molecular chaperone previously shown to regulate calcium-dependent vesicle fusion. These data suggest that there is a novel CASK-β-dependent regulatory complex in dopaminergic neurons that serves to link activity and neurotransmitter release.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Modular scaffolding proteins are designed to have multiple interactors. CASK, a member of the membrane-associated guanylate kinase (MAGUK) superfamily, has been shown to have roles in many tissues, including neurons and epithelia. It is likely that the set of proteins it interacts with is different in each of these diverse tissues. In this study we asked if within the Drosophila central nervous system, there were neuron-specific sets of CASK-interacting proteins. A YFP-tagged CASK-β transgene was expressed in genetically defined subsets of neurons in the Drosophila brain known to be important for CASK function, and proteins present in an anti-GFP immunoprecipitation were identified by mass spectrometry. Each subset of neurons had a distinct set of interacting proteins, suggesting that CASK participates in multiple protein networks and that these networks may be different in different neuronal circuits. One common set of proteins was associated with mitochondria, and we show here that endogenous CASK-β co-purifies with mitochondria. We also determined CASK-β posttranslational modifications for one cell type, supporting the idea that this technique can be used to assess cell- and circuit-specific protein modifications as well as protein interaction networks.
Preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The overwhelming amount of available genomic sequence variation information demands a streamlined approach to examine known pathogenic mutations of any given protein. Here we seek to outline a strategy to easily classify pathogenic missense mutations that cause protein misfolding and are thus good candidates for chaperone-based therapeutic strategies, using previously identified mutations in the gene CASK. We applied a battery of bioinformatics algorithms designed to predict potential impact on protein structure to five pathogenic missense mutations in the protein CASK that have been shown to underlie pathologies ranging from X-linked mental retardation to autism spectrum disorder. A successful classification of the mutations as damaging was not consistently achieved despite the known pathogenicity. In addition to the bioinformatics analyses, we performed molecular modeling and phylogenetic comparisons. Finally, we developed a simple high-throughput imaging assay to measure the misfolding propensity of the CASK mutants in situ. Our data suggests that a phylogenetic analysis may be a robust method for predicting structurally damaging mutations in CASK. Mutations in two evolutionarily invariant residues (Y728C and W919R) exhibited a strong propensity to misfold and form visible aggregates in the cytosolic milieu. The remaining mutations (R28L, Y268H, and P396S) showed no evidence of aggregation and maintained their interactions with known CASK binding partners liprin-α3 Mint-1, and Veli, indicating an intact structure. Intriguingly, the protein aggregation caused by the Y728C and W919R mutations was reversed by treating the cells with a chemical chaperone (glycerol), providing a possible therapeutic strategy for treating structural mutations in CASK in the future.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CASK (Ca2+/calmodulin-activated serine kinase) is a synaptic protein that interacts with the cytosolic tail of adhesion molecules such as neurexins, syncam and syndecans. It belongs to the MAGUK (membrane-associated guanylate kinase) family of scaffolding proteins which are known to decorate cell-cell junctions. CASK is an essential gene in mammals, critical for neurodevelopment. Mutations in the CASK gene in humans result in phenotypes that range from intellectual disability to lethality. Despite its importance, CASK has a single genetic isoform located in the short arm of the X chromosome near an evolutionary breakpoint. Surprisingly, CASK is a non-essential gene in invertebrates and displays functional divergence. In the present article, we describe the phylogenetic differences in existing CASK orthologues. The CASK gene has undergone a huge expansion in size (~55-fold). Almost all of this expansion is a direct result of an increase in the size of the introns. The coding region of CASK orthologues, and hence the protein, exhibit a high degree of evolutionary conservation. Within the protein, domain arrangement is completely conserved and substitution rates are higher in the connecting loop regions [L27 (Lin2, Lin7)] than within the domain. Our analyses of single residue substitutions and genotype-phenotype relationships suggest that, other than intronic expansion, the dramatic functional changes of CASK are driven by subtle (non-radical) primary structure changes within the CASK protein and concomitant changes in its protein interactors.
Preview · Article · Aug 2013 · Biochemical Society Transactions
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Membrane fusion is mediated by complexes formed by SNAP-receptor (SNARE) and Secretory 1 (Sec1)/mammalian uncoordinated-18 (Munc18)-like (SM) proteins, but it is unclear when and how these complexes assemble. Here we describe an improved two-color fluorescence nanoscopy technique that can achieve effective resolutions of up to 7.5-nm full width at half maximum (3.2-nm localization precision), limited only by stochastic photon emission from single molecules. We use this technique to dissect the spatial relationships between the neuronal SM protein Munc18-1 and SNARE proteins syntaxin-1 and SNAP-25 (25 kDa synaptosome-associated protein). Strikingly, we observed nanoscale clusters consisting of syntaxin-1 and SNAP-25 that contained associated Munc18-1. Rescue experiments with syntaxin-1 mutants revealed that Munc18-1 recruitment to the plasma membrane depends on the Munc18-1 binding to the N-terminal peptide of syntaxin-1. Our results suggest that in a primary neuron, SNARE/SM protein complexes containing syntaxin-1, SNAP-25, and Munc18-1 are preassembled in microdomains on the presynaptic plasma membrane. Our superresolution imaging method provides a framework for investigating interactions between the synaptic vesicle fusion machinery and other subcellular systems in situ.
Preview · Article · Jul 2013 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Signal transduction and neurotransmitter release in the vertebrate central nervous system are confined to the structurally complex presynaptic electron dense projections called "active zones." Although the nature of these projections remains a mystery, genetic and biochemical work has provided evidence for the active zone (AZ) associated proteins i.e. Piccolo/Aczonin, Bassoon, RIM1/Unc10, Munc13/Unc13, Liprin-α/SYD2/Dliprin and ELKS/CAST/BRP and their specific molecular functions. It still remains unclear, however, what their precise contribution is to the AZ assembly. In our project, we studied in Wistar rats the temporal and spatial distribution of AZ proteins and their colocalization with Synaptophysin in the developing cerebellar cortex at key stages of cerebellum neurogenesis. Our study demonstrated that AZ proteins were already present at the very early stages of cerebellar neurogenesis and exhibited distinct spatial and temporal variations in immunoexpression throughout the course of the study. Colocalization analysis revealed that the colocalization pattern was time-dependent and different for each studied protein. The highest collective mean percentage of colocalization (>85%) was observed at postnatal day (PD) 5, followed by PD10 (>83%) and PD15 (>80%). The findings of our study shed light on AZ protein immunoexpression changes during cerebellar cortex neurogenesis and help frame a hypothetical model of AZ assembly.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Acta histochemica
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genetic causes for disturbances of locomotor behavior can be due to muscle, peripheral neuron, or central nervous system pathologies. The Drosophila melanogaster homolog of human CASK (also known as caki or camguk) is a molecular scaffold that has been postulated to have roles in both locomotion and plasticity. These conclusions are based on studies using overlapping deficiencies that largely eliminate the entire CASK locus, but contain additional chromosomal aberrations as well. More importantly, analysis of the sequenced Drosophila genome suggests the existence of multiple protein variants from the CASK locus, further complicating the interpretation of experiments using deficiency strains. In this study, we generated small deletions within the CASK gene that eliminate gene products containing the CaMK-like and L27 domains (CASK-β), but do not affect transcripts encoding the smaller forms (CASK-α), which are structurally homologous to vertebrate MPP1. These mutants have normal olfactory habituation, but exhibit a striking array of locomotor problems that includes both initiation and motor maintenance defects. Previous studies had suggested that presynaptic release defects at the neuromuscular junction in the multigene deficiency strain were the likely basis of its locomotor phenotype. The locomotor phenotype of the CASK-β mutant, however, cannot be rescued by expression of a CASK-β transgene in motor neurons. Expression in a subset of central neurons that does not include the ellipsoid body, a well-known pre-motor neuropil, provides complete rescue. Full-length CASK-β, while widely expressed in the nervous system, appears to have a unique role within central circuits that control motor output.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: All known protein kinases, except CASK [calcium/calmodulin (CaM)-activated serine-threonine kinase], require magnesium ions (Mg(2+)) to stimulate the transfer of a phosphate from adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) to a protein substrate. The CaMK (calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase) domain of CASK shows activity in the absence of Mg(2+); indeed, it is inhibited by divalent ions including Mg(2+). Here, we converted the Mg(2+)-inhibited wild-type CASK kinase (CASK(WT)) into a Mg(2+)-stimulated kinase (CASK(4M)) by substituting four residues within the ATP-binding pocket. Crystal structures of CASK(4M) with and without bound nucleotide and Mn(2+), together with kinetic analyses, demonstrated that Mg(2+) accelerates catalysis of CASK(4M) by stabilizing the transition state, enhancing the leaving group properties of adenosine 5'-diphosphate, and indirectly shifting the position of the gamma-phosphate of ATP. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the four residues conferring Mg(2+)-mediated stimulation were substituted from CASK during early animal evolution, converting a primordial, Mg(2+)-coordinating form of CASK into a Mg(2+)-inhibited kinase. This emergence of Mg(2+) sensitivity (inhibition by Mg(2+)) conferred regulation of CASK activity by divalent cations, in parallel with the evolution of the animal nervous systems.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Piccolo and bassoon are highly homologous multidomain proteins of the presynaptic cytomatrix whose function is unclear. Here, we generated piccolo knockin/knockout mice that either contain wild-type levels of mutant piccolo unable to bind Ca(2+) (knockin), approximately 60% decreased levels of piccolo that is C-terminally truncated (partial knockout), or <5% levels of piccolo (knockout). All piccolo mutant mice were viable and fertile, but piccolo knockout mice exhibited increased postnatal mortality. Unexpectedly, electrophysiology and electron microscopy of piccolo-deficient synapses failed to uncover a major phenotype either in acute hippocampal slices or in cultured cortical neurons. To unmask potentially redundant functions of piccolo and bassoon, we thus acutely knocked down expression of bassoon in wild-type and piccolo knockout neurons. Despite a nearly complete loss of piccolo and bassoon, however, we still did not detect an electrophysiological phenotype in cultured piccolo- and bassoon-deficient neurons in either GABAergic or glutamatergic synaptic transmission. In contrast, electron microscopy revealed a significant reduction in synaptic vesicle clustering in double bassoon/piccolo-deficient synapses. Thus, we propose that piccolo and bassoon play a redundant role in synaptic vesicle clustering in nerve terminals without directly participating in neurotransmitter release.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2010 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CASK is a unique MAGUK protein that contains an N-terminal CaM-kinase domain besides the typical MAGUK domains. The CASK CaM-kinase domain is presumed to be a catalytically inactive pseudokinase because it lacks the canonical DFG motif required for Mg2+ binding that is thought to be indispensable for kinase activity. Here we show, however, that CASK functions as an active protein kinase even without Mg2+ binding. High-resolution crystal structures reveal that the CASK CaM-kinase domain adopts a constitutively active conformation that binds ATP and catalyzes phosphotransfer without Mg2+. The CASK CaM-kinase domain phosphorylates itself and at least one physiological interactor, the synaptic protein neurexin-1, to which CASK is recruited via its PDZ domain. Thus, our data indicate that CASK combines the scaffolding activity of MAGUKs with an unusual kinase activity that phosphorylates substrates recuited by the scaffolding activity. Moreover, our study suggests that other pseudokinases (10% of the kinome) could also be catalytically active.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CASK is an evolutionarily conserved multidomain protein composed of an N-terminal Ca2+/calmodulin-kinase domain, central PDZ and SH3 domains, and a C-terminal guanylate kinase domain. Many potential activities for CASK have been suggested, including functions in scaffolding the synapse, in organizing ion channels, and in regulating neuronal gene transcription. To better define the physiological importance of CASK, we have now analyzed CASK "knockdown" mice in which CASK expression was suppressed by approximately 70%, and CASK knockout (KO) mice, in which CASK expression was abolished. CASK knockdown mice are viable but smaller than WT mice, whereas CASK KO mice die at first day after birth. CASK KO mice exhibit no major developmental abnormalities apart from a partially penetrant cleft palate syndrome. In CASK-deficient neurons, the levels of the CASK-interacting proteins Mints, Veli/Mals, and neurexins are decreased, whereas the level of neuroligin 1 (which binds to neurexins that in turn bind to CASK) is increased. Neurons lacking CASK display overall normal electrical properties and form ultrastructurally normal synapses. However, glutamatergic spontaneous synaptic release events are increased, and GABAergic synaptic release events are decreased in CASK-deficient neurons. In contrast to spontaneous neurotransmitter release, evoked release exhibited no major changes. Our data suggest that CASK, the only member of the membrane-associated guanylate kinase protein family that contains a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase domain, is required for mouse survival and performs a selectively essential function without being in itself required for core activities of neurons, such as membrane excitability, Ca2+-triggered presynaptic release, or postsynaptic receptor functions.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2007 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nerve terminals of the central nervous system (CNS) contain specialized release sites for synaptic vesicles, referred to as active zones. They are characterized by electron-dense structures that are tightly associated with the presynaptic plasma membrane and organize vesicle docking and priming sites. Recently, major protein constituents of active zones have been identified, including the proteins Piccolo, Bassoon, RIM, Munc13, ERCs/ELKs/CASTs and liprins. While it is becoming apparent that each of these proteins is essential for synaptic function in the CNS, it is not known to what extent these proteins are involved in synaptic function of the peripheral nervous system. Somatic neuromuscular junctions contain morphologically and functionally defined active zones with similarities to CNS synapses. In contrast, sympathetic neuromuscular varicosities lack active zone-like morphological specializations. Using immunocytochemistry at the light and electron microscopic level we have now performed a systematic investigation of all five major classes of active zone proteins in peripheral neuromuscular junctions. Our results show that somatic neuromuscular endplates contain a full complement of all active zone proteins. In contrast, varicosities of the vas deferens contain a subset of active zone proteins including Bassoon and ELKS2, with the other four components being absent. We conclude that Bassoon and ELKS2 perform independent and specialized functions in synaptic transmission of autonomic synapses.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2007 · European Journal of Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SNAREs (soluble NSF attachment protein receptors) are membrane proteins that catalyze membrane fusion. SNAREs are defined by a characteristic 70 residue sequence called the SNARE motif. During synaptic vesicle fusion, the single SNARE motif of the synaptic vesicle SNARE protein synaptobrevin/VAMP associates into a four-helical bundle with SNARE motifs from the plasma membrane SNARE proteins syntaxin 1 and SNAP-25. The four SNARE motifs (one each from synaptobrevin and syntaxin, and two from SNAP-25) assume a parallel orientation in the complex, suggesting that formation of the complex initiates fusion by forcing the membranes containing the SNAREs into close proximity. It has been proposed that SNARE complexes assemble in an N- to C-terminal progression, a process referred to as zippering, but little direct evidence for zippering exists. Furthermore, the SM protein Munc18-1, which binds to syntaxin 1 and is essential for synaptic fusion, is thought to prepare SNAREs for complex formation by an unknown mechanism, possibly by nucleating zippering. We now show that fragments containing the N- and C-terminal regions of the SNARE motif from syntaxin 1A bind SNAP-25 similarly. However, in permeabilized PC12 cells which are used as a biochemical model system to study synaptic fusion, only fragments containing the N-terminal region are powerful inhibitors of fusion. Furthermore, mutations in the N-terminal part of the Syntaxin SNARE motif have only a moderate effect on SNAP-25 binding but abolish the inhibitory activity of the SNARE motif. Finally, larger fragments of syntaxin 1A that strongly bind to Munc18-1 but do not readily assemble into SNARE complexes had no effect on exocytosis in permeabilized PC12 cells. Together these results suggest that Munc18-1 acts before SNARE complex assembly, and is no longer required at the stage of fusion assayed in permeabilized PC12 cells. The selective effect of the N-terminal half of the syntaxin 1A SNARE motif on PC12 cell exocytosis shows that the SNARE motif is functionally polarized, and supports the notion that SNARE complexes assemble in an N- to C-terminal zippering reaction during fusion without a stable, partially assembled intermediate.
No preview · Article · Dec 2003 · Neuropharmacology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurotransmitters are released by synaptic vesicle fusion at the active zone. The active zone of a synapse mediates Ca2+-triggered neurotransmitter release, and integrates presynaptic signals in regulating this release. Much is known about the structure of active zones and synaptic vesicles, but the functional relation between their components is poorly understood. Here we show that RIM1alpha, an active zone protein that was identified as a putative effector for the synaptic vesicle protein Rab3A, interacts with several active zone molecules, including Munc13-1 (ref. 6) and alpha-liprins, to form a protein scaffold in the presynaptic nerve terminal. Abolishing the expression of RIM1alpha in mice shows that RIM1alpha is essential for maintaining normal probability of neurotransmitter release, and for regulating release during short-term synaptic plasticity. These data indicate that RIM1alpha has a central function in integrating active zone proteins and synaptic vesicles into a molecular scaffold that controls neurotransmitter release.