• Neuroligin-1 mediates presynaptic maturation through brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling.

      Petkova-Tuffy, Andonia; Gödecke, Nina; Viotti, Julio; Korte, Martin; Dresbach, Thomas; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2021-09-27)
      Background: Maturation is a process that allows synapses to acquire full functionality, optimizing their activity to diverse neural circuits, and defects in synaptic maturation may contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. Neuroligin-1 (NL1) is a postsynaptic cell adhesion molecule essential for synapse maturation, a role typically attributed to binding to pre-synaptic ligands, the neurexins. However, the pathways underlying the action of NL1 in synaptic maturation are incompletely understood, and some of its previously observed effects seem reminiscent of those described for the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Here, we show that maturational increases in active zone stability and synaptic vesicle recycling rely on the joint action of NL1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Results: Applying BDNF to hippocampal neurons in primary cultures or organotypical slice cultures mimicked the effects of overexpressing NL1 on both structural and functional maturation. Overexpressing a NL1 mutant deficient in neurexin binding still induced presynaptic maturation. Like NL1, BDNF increased synaptic vesicle recycling and the augmentation of transmitter release by phorbol esters, both hallmarks of presynaptic maturation. Mimicking the effects of NL1, BDNF also increased the half-life of the active zone marker bassoon at synapses, reflecting increased active zone stability. Overexpressing NL1 increased the expression and synaptic accumulation of BDNF. Inhibiting BDNF signaling pharmacologically or genetically prevented the effects of NL1 on presynaptic maturation. Applying BDNF to NL1-knockout mouse cultures rescued defective presynaptic maturation, indicating that BDNF acts downstream of NL1 and can restore presynaptic maturation at late stages of network development. Conclusions: Our data introduce BDNF as a novel and essential component in a transsynaptic pathway linking NL1-mediated cell adhesion, neurotrophin action, and presynaptic maturation. Our findings connect synaptic cell adhesion and neurotrophin signaling and may provide a therapeutic approach to neurodevelopmental disorders by targeting synapse maturation.