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Neuron. 2013 Jun 5;78(5):855-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.04.006. Epub 2013 May 9.

Robo3-driven axon midline crossing conditions functional maturation of a large commissural synapse.

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Laboratory of Synaptic Mechanisms, Brain Mind Institute, School of Life Science, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


During the formation of neuronal circuits, axon pathfinding decisions specify the location of synapses on the correct brain side and in correct target areas. We investigated a possible link between axon midline crossing and the subsequent development of output synapses formed by these axons. Conditional knockout of Robo3 in the auditory system forced a large commissural synapse, the calyx of Held, to be exclusively formed on the wrong, ipsilateral side. Ipsilateral calyx of Held synapses showed strong transmission defects, with reduced and desynchronized transmitter release, fewer fast-releasable vesicles, and smaller and more variable presynaptic Ca(2+) currents. Transmission defects were not observed in a downstream inhibitory synapse, and some defects persisted into adulthood. These results suggest that axon midline crossing conditions functional maturation of commissural synapses, thereby minimizing the impact of mislocalized synapses on information processing. This mechanism might be relevant to human disease caused by mutations in the ROBO3 gene.

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