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J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 24;30(12):4362-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0354-10.2010.

Dact1 is a postsynaptic protein required for dendrite, spine, and excitatory synapse development in the mouse forebrain.

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Departments of Psychiatry, Physiology, and Ophthalmology and Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.


Dact1 (Dapper/Frodo), an intracellular phosphoprotein that binds Dishevelled, catenins, and other signaling proteins, is expressed in the developing and mature mammalian CNS, but its function there is unknown. Dact1 colocalized with synaptic markers and partitioned to postsynaptic fractions from cultured mouse forebrain neurons. Hippocampal neurons from Dact1 knock-out mice had simpler dendritic arbors and fewer spines than hippocampal neurons from wild-type littermates. This correlated with reductions in excitatory synapses and miniature EPSCs, whereas inhibitory synapses were not affected. Loss of Dact1 resulted in a decrease in activated Rac, and recombinant expression of either Dact1 or constitutively active Rac, but not Rho or Cdc42, rescued dendrite and spine phenotypes in Dact1 mutant neurons. Our findings suggest that, during neuronal differentiation, Dact1 plays a critical role in a molecular pathway promoting Rac activity underlying the elaboration of dendrites and the establishment of spines and excitatory synapses.

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