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Nature. 2012 Mar 18;484(7393):201-7. doi: 10.1038/nature10926.

Teneurins instruct synaptic partner matching in an olfactory map.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Neurons are interconnected with extraordinary precision to assemble a functional nervous system. Compared to axon guidance, far less is understood about how individual pre- and postsynaptic partners are matched. To ensure the proper relay of olfactory information in the fruitfly Drosophila, axons of ∼50 classes of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) form one-to-one connections with dendrites of ∼50 classes of projection neurons (PNs). Here, using genetic screens, we identified two evolutionarily conserved, epidermal growth factor (EGF)-repeat containing transmembrane Teneurin proteins, Ten-m and Ten-a, as synaptic-partner-matching molecules between PN dendrites and ORN axons. Ten-m and Ten-a are highly expressed in select PN-ORN matching pairs. Teneurin loss- and gain-of-function cause specific mismatching of select ORNs and PNs. Finally, Teneurins promote homophilic interactions in vitro, and Ten-m co-expression in non-partner PNs and ORNs promotes their ectopic connections in vivo. We propose that Teneurins instruct matching specificity between synaptic partners through homophilic attraction.

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