PloS one

Disassembly of shank and homer synaptic clusters is driven by soluble beta-amyloid(1-40) through divergent NMDAR-dependent signalling pathways.

PMID 19547699


Disruption of the postsynaptic density (PSD), a network of scaffold proteins located in dendritic spines, is thought to be responsible for synaptic dysfunction and loss in early-stage Alzheimer's disease (AD). Extending our previous demonstration that derangement of the PSD by soluble amyloid-beta (Abeta) involves proteasomal degradation of PSD-95, a protein important for ionotropic glutamate receptor trafficking, we now show that Abeta also disrupts two other scaffold proteins, Homer1b and Shank1, that couple PSD-95 with ionotropic and metabotropic glutamate receptors. Treatment of fronto-cortical neurons with soluble Abeta results in rapid (within 1 h) and significant thinning of the PSD, decreased synaptic levels of Homer1b and Shank1, and reduced synaptic mGluR1 levels. We show that de novo protein synthesis is required for the declustering effects of Abeta on Homer1b (but not Shank1) and that, in contrast to PSD-95, Abeta-induced Homer1b and Shank1 cluster disassembly does not depend on proteasome activity. The regulation of Homer1b and Shank1 by Abeta diverges in two other respects: i) whereas the activity of both NMDAR and VDCC is required for Abeta-induced declustering of Homer1b, Abeta-induced declustering of Shank1 only requires NMDAR activity; and ii) whereas the effects of Abeta on Homer1b involve engagement of the PI-3K pathway and calcineurin phosphatase (PP2B) activity, those on Shank1 involve activation of the ERK pathway. In summary, soluble Abeta recruits discrete signalling pathways to rapidly reduce the synaptic localization of major components of the PSD and to regulate the availability of mGluR1 in the synapse.