Retrograde semaphorin signaling regulates synapse elimination in the developing mouse brain

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 1020-1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.1252514

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Making and breaking neuronal synapses

As the brain develops, early synapse formation is exuberant and haphazard. But as development progresses, connections are refined into functional networks. In that process, many synapses get eliminated. Uesaka et al. now show that molecules already known for axon guidance are functional later on when they regulate the synaptic pruning needed to refine the circuits connected during axon guidance.

Science, this issue p. 1020


Neural circuits are shaped by elimination of early-formed redundant synapses during postnatal development. Retrograde signaling from postsynaptic cells regulates synapse elimination. In this work, we identified semaphorins, a family of versatile cell recognition molecules, as retrograde signals for elimination of redundant climbing fiber to Purkinje cell synapses in developing mouse cerebellum. Knockdown of Sema3A, a secreted semaphorin, in Purkinje cells or its receptor in climbing fibers accelerated synapse elimination during postnatal day 8 (P8) to P18. Conversely, knockdown of Sema7A, a membrane-anchored semaphorin, in Purkinje cells or either of its two receptors in climbing fibers impaired synapse elimination after P15. The effect of Sema7A involves signaling by metabotropic glutamate receptor 1, a canonical pathway for climbing fiber synapse elimination. These findings define how semaphorins retrogradely regulate multiple processes of synapse elimination.

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