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J Cell Sci. 2011 Nov 1;124(Pt 21):3643-53. doi: 10.1242/jcs.086223. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Effects of phosphorylation and neuronal activity on the control of synapse formation by synapsin I.

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San Raffaele Scientific Institute and Vita-Salute University, Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milano, Italy.


Synapsins are synaptic vesicle (SV)-associated proteins that regulate synaptic transmission and neuronal differentiation. At early stages, Syn I and II phosphorylation at Ser9 by cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase I/IV modulates axon elongation and SV-precursor dynamics. We evaluated the requirement of Syn I for synapse formation by siRNA-mediated knockdown as well as by overexpression of either its wild-type (WT) form or its phosphorylation mutants. Syn1 knockdown at 14 days in vitro caused a decrease in the number of synapses, accompanied by a reduction of SV recycling. Although overexpression of WT Syn I was ineffective, overexpression of its phosphorylation mutants resulted in a complex temporal regulation of synapse density. At early stages of synaptogenesis, phosphomimetic Syn I S9E significantly increased the number of synapses. Conversely, dephosphomimetic Syn I S9A decreased synapse number at more advanced stages. Overexpression of either WT Syn I or its phosphomimetic S9E mutant rescued the decrease in synapse number caused by chronic treatment with tetrodotoxin at early stages, suggesting that Syn I participates in an alternative PKA-dependent mechanism that can compensate for the impairment of the activity-dependent synaptogenic pathway. Altogether these results indicate that Syn I is an important regulator of synapse formation, which adjusts synapse number in response to extracellular signals.

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