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J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 27;25(17):4330-42.

Extracellular domains of alpha-neurexins participate in regulating synaptic transmission by selectively affecting N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels.

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  • 1Center for Physiology and Pathophysiology, Georg-August University, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany.


Neurexins constitute a large family of highly variable cell-surface molecules that may function in synaptic transmission and/or synapse formation. Each of the three known neurexin genes encodes two major neurexin variants, alpha- and beta-neurexins, that are composed of distinct extracellular domains linked to identical intracellular sequences. Deletions of one, two, or all three alpha-neurexins in mice recently demonstrated their essential role at synapses. In multiple alpha-neurexin knock-outs, neurotransmitter release from excitatory and inhibitory synapses was severely reduced, primarily probably because voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels were impaired. It remained unclear, however, which neurexin variants actually influence exocytosis and Ca2+ channels, which domain of neurexins is required for this function, and which Ca2+-channel subtypes are regulated. Here, we show by electrophysiological recordings that transgenic neurexin 1alpha rescues the release and Ca2+-current phenotypes, whereas transgenic neurexin 1beta has no effect, indicating the importance of the extracellular sequences for the function of neurexins. Because neurexin 1alpha rescued the knock-out phenotype independent of the alpha-neurexin gene deleted, these data are consistent with a redundant function among different alpha-neurexins. In both knock-out and transgenically rescued mice, alpha-neurexins selectively affected the component of neurotransmitter release that depended on activation of N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels, but left L-type Ca2+ channels unscathed. Our findings indicate that alpha-neurexins represent organizer molecules in neurotransmission that regulate N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels, constituting an essential role at synapses that critically involves the extracellular domains of neurexins.

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