The Journal of biological chemistry

Lipid binding defects and perturbed synaptogenic activity of a Collybistin R290H mutant that causes epilepsy and intellectual disability.

PMID 25678704


Signaling at nerve cell synapses is a key determinant of proper brain function, and synaptic defects--or synaptopathies--are at the basis of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. In key areas of the mammalian brain, such as the hippocampus or the basolateral amygdala, the clustering of the scaffolding protein Gephyrin and of γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors at inhibitory neuronal synapses is critically dependent upon the brain-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor Collybistin (Cb). Accordingly, it was discovered recently that an R290H missense mutation in the diffuse B-cell lymphoma homology domain of Cb, which carries the guanine nucleotide exchange factor activity, leads to epilepsy and intellectual disability in human patients. In the present study, we determined the mechanism by which the Cb(R290H) mutation perturbs inhibitory synapse formation and causes brain dysfunction. Based on a combination of biochemical, cell biological, and molecular dynamics simulation approaches, we demonstrate that the R290H mutation alters the strength of intramolecular interactions between the diffuse B-cell lymphoma homology domain and the pleckstrin homology domain of Cb. This defect reduces the phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate binding affinity of Cb, which limits its normal synaptogenic activity. Our data indicate that impairment of the membrane lipid binding activity of Cb and a consequent defect in inhibitory synapse maturation represent a likely molecular pathomechanism of epilepsy and mental retardation in humans.