Neurexins (NRXNs) are among the key presynaptic cell adhesion molecules that regulate synapse function and formation via trans-synaptic interaction with postsynaptic ligands. Here, we generated cerebellar granule cell (CGC)-specific Nrxn triple-knockout (TKO) mice to allow the deletion of all NRXNs. Unexpectedly, most CGCs died in these mice. The requirement of NRNXs for cell survival was reproduced in cultured CGCs. We showed that the axons of cultured Nrxn TKO CGCs that were not in contact with the postsynaptic structure had defects in the formation of presynaptic protein cluster and action potential-induced Ca2+ influx. Additionally, these cells were impaired in the secretion from axons of depolarization-induced fluorescence-tagged brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and the cell-survival defect was rescued by the application of BDNF. Our results suggest that CGC survival is maintained by autocrine neurotrophic factors, and that NRXNs organize the presynaptic protein clusters and the autocrine neurotrophic factor secretory machinery independent of contact with postsynaptic ligands.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience