The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Genetic Ablation of All Cerebellins Reveals Synapse Organizer Functions in Multiple Regions Throughout the Brain.

PMID 29691328


Cerebellins are synaptic organizer molecules that bind to presynaptic neurexins and postsynaptic receptors. They are well studied in the cerebellum, but three of the four cerebellins (Cbln1, Cbln2, and Cbln4) are also broadly expressed outside of the cerebellum, suggesting that they perform general functions throughout the brain. Here, we generated male and female constitutive single (KO), double KO (dKO), and triple KO (tKO) mice of Cbln1, Cbln2, and Cbln4. We found that all constitutive cerebellin-deficient mice were viable and fertile, suggesting that cerebellins are not essential for survival. Cbln1/2 dKO mice exhibited salience-induced seizures that were aggravated in Cbln1/2/4 tKO mice, suggesting that all cerebellins contribute to brain function. As described previously, Cbln1 KO mice displayed major motor impairments that were aggravated by additional KO of Cbln2. Strikingly, the Cbln1/2 dKO did not cause alterations in synapse density in the hippocampus of young adult (1- and 2-month-old) mice, but produced a selective ∼50% decrease in hippocampal synapse density in the stratum lacunosum moleculare of the CA1 region and in the dentate gyrus of aging, 6-month-old mice. A similar decrease in excitatory synapse density was observed in the striatum and retrosplenial cortex. Behaviorally, the Cbln1 KO produced dramatic changes in motor behaviors that were partly aggravated by additional deletion of Cbln2 and/or Cbln4. Our results show that cerebellins are not essential for survival and do not contribute to initial synapse formation, but perform multiple functions throughout the brain; as a consequence, their ablation results in a delayed loss of synapses and in behavioral impairments.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Cerebellins (Cbln1-4) are trans-synaptic cell adhesion molecules. In the cerebellum, Cbln1 functions as a bidirectional organizer of parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses by binding to presynaptic neurexins and postsynaptic GluRδ2. Little is known about the function of cerebellins outside of the cerebellum; therefore, the present study used single, double, and triple constitutive KO mice of Cbln1, Cbln2, and Cbln4 to analyze the overall function of cerebellins. We show that cerebellins act as important synaptic organizers in specific subsets of neurons and likely contribute to many different brain functions. We also show that cerebellins are not initially required for synapse formation, but rather for specification and long-term synapse maintenance and demonstrate that all cerebellins, not just Cbln1, contribute to brain function.