Abstract

Neuroligins (NLs) and leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins (LRRTMs) are postsynaptic cell adhesion molecules that bind to presynaptic neurexins. In this paper, we show that short hairpin ribonucleic acid–mediated knockdowns (KDs) of LRRTM1, LRRTM2, and/or NL-3, alone or together as double or triple KDs (TKDs) in cultured hippocampal neurons, did not decrease synapse numbers. In neurons cultured from NL-1 knockout mice, however, TKD of LRRTMs and NL-3 induced an ∼40% loss of excitatory but not inhibitory synapses. Strikingly, synapse loss triggered by the LRRTM/NL deficiency was abrogated by chronic blockade of synaptic activity as well as by chronic inhibition of Ca2+ influx or Ca2+/calmodulin (CaM) kinases. Furthermore, postsynaptic KD of CaM prevented synapse loss in a cell-autonomous manner, an effect that was reversed by CaM rescue. Our results suggest that two neurexin ligands, LRRTMs and NLs, act redundantly to maintain excitatory synapses and that synapse elimination caused by the absence of NLs and LRRTMs is promoted by synaptic activity and mediated by a postsynaptic Ca2+/CaM-dependent signaling pathway.

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