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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2004 Dec;27(4):509-21.

Temporally distinct demands for classic cadherins in synapse formation and maturation.

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  • 1Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Classic cadherins are synaptic adhesion proteins that have been implicated in synapse formation and targeting. Brief inactivation of classic cadherin function in young neurons appears to abrogate synapse formation when examined acutely. It remains unknown if such abrogation is unique to young neurons, whether it occurs by stalling neuronal maturation or by directly interfering with the process of synapse assembly, or whether synapse targeting is altered. Here we asked if sustained pan-cadherin blockade would prevent or alter the progression of axonal and dendritic outgrowth, synaptogenesis, or the stereotypic distribution of excitatory and inhibitory synapses on cultured hippocampal neurons. While pre- and postsynaptic cadherins are required for synapse assembly in young neurons, we find that in neurons older than 10 days, classic cadherins are entirely dispensable for joining and aligning presynaptic vesicle clusters with molecular markers of the postsynaptic density. Furthermore, we find that the proportion and relative distributions of excitatory and inhibitory terminals on single neurons are not altered. However, synapses that form on neurons in which cadherin function is blocked are smaller; they exhibit decreased synaptic vesicle recycling and a decreased frequency of spontaneous EPSCs. Moreover, they fail to acquire resistance to F-actin depolymerization, a hallmark of mature, stable contacts. These data provide new evidence that cadherins are required to promote synapse stabilization and structural and functional maturation, but dispensable for the correct subcellular distribution of excitatory and inhibitory synapses.

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