Evidence for opposing roles of Celsr3 and Vangl2 in glutamatergic synapse formation
Significance The signaling mechanisms mediating glutamatergic synapse assembly are fundamental to our understanding of neural circuit function, plasticity, and disorders, but have remained elusive. We provide direct evidence that two components of the conserved planar cell polarity signaling pathway, which assembles asymmetric cell–cell junctions, have opposing functions in glutamatergic synapse formation. Celsr3 promotes assembly whereas Vangl2 inhibits assembly, suggesting that this signaling mechanism is accessible for both positive and negative regulation and is also a candidate pathway for mediating synaptic plasticity. The signaling mechanisms that choreograph the assembly of the highly asymmetric pre- and postsynaptic structures are still poorly defined. Using synaptosome fractionation, immunostaining, and coimmunoprecipitation, we found that Celsr3 and Vangl2, core components of the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway, are localized at developing glutamatergic synapses and interact with key synaptic proteins. Pyramidal neurons from the hippocampus of Celsr3 knockout mice exhibit loss of ∼50% of glutamatergic synapses, but not inhibitory synapses, in culture. Wnts are known regulators of synapse formation, and our data reveal that Wnt5a inhibits glutamatergic synapses formed via Celsr3. To avoid affecting earlier developmental processes, such as axon guidance, we conditionally knocked out Celsr3 in the hippocampus 1 week after birth. The CA1 neurons that lost Celsr3 also showed a loss of ∼50% of glutamatergic synapses in vivo without affecting the inhibitory synapses assessed by miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (mEPSC) and electron microscopy. These animals displayed deficits in hippocampus-dependent behaviors in adulthood, including spatial learning and memory and fear conditioning. In contrast to Celsr3 conditional knockouts, we found that the conditional knockout of Vangl2 in the hippocampus 1 week after birth led to a large increase in synaptic density, as evaluated by mEPSC frequency and spine density. PCP signaling is mediated by multiple core components with antagonizing functions. Our results document the opposing roles of Celsr3 and Vangl2 in glutamatergic synapse formation.
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