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FASEB J. 2008 Jun;22(6):1861-73. doi: 10.1096/fj.07-100008. Epub 2008 Jan 29.

Neurotrypsin cleaves agrin locally at the synapse.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


The synaptic serine protease neurotrypsin is considered to be essential for the establishment and maintenance of cognitive brain functions, because humans lacking functional neurotrypsin suffer from severe mental retardation. Neurotrypsin cleaves agrin at two homologous sites, liberating a 90-kDa and a C-terminal 22-kDa fragment from the N-terminal moiety of agrin. Morphological analyses indicate that neurotrypsin is contained in presynaptic terminals and externalized in association with synaptic activity, while agrin is localized to the extracellular space at or in the vicinity of the synapse. Here, we present a detailed biochemical analysis of neurotrypsin-mediated agrin cleavage in the murine brain. In brain homogenates, we found that neurotrypsin exclusively cleaves glycanated variants of agrin. Studies with isolated synaptosomes obtained by subcellular fractionation from brains of wild-type and neurotrypsin-overexpressing mice revealed that neurotrypsin-dependent cleavage of agrin was concentrated at synapses, where the most heavily glycanated variants of agrin predominate. Because agrin has been shown to play an important role in the formation and the maintenance of excitatory synapses in the central nervous system, its local cleavage at the synapse implicates the neurotrypsin/agrin system in the regulation of adaptive reorganizations of the synaptic circuitry in the context of cognitive functions, such as learning and memory.

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