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J Cell Biol. 2013 Dec 9;203(5):849-63. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201302022.

Liprin-α/SYD-2 determines the size of dense projections in presynaptic active zones in C. elegans.

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European Neuroscience Institute, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Synaptic vesicle (SV) release is spatially and temporally regulated by a network of proteins that form the presynaptic active zone (AZ). The hallmark of most AZs is an electron-dense projection (DP) surrounded by SVs. Despite their importance for our understanding of triggered SV release, high-resolution analyses of DP structures are limited. Using electron microscopy, we show that DPs at Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) were highly structured, composed of building units forming bays in which SVs are docked to the AZ membrane. Furthermore, larger ribbonlike DPs that were multimers of the NMJ building unit are found at synapses between inter- and motoneurons. We also demonstrate that DP size is determined by the activity of the AZ protein SYD-2/Liprin-α. Whereas loss of syd-2 function led to smaller DPs, syd-2 gain-of-function mutants displayed larger ribbonlike DPs through increased recruitment of ELKS-1/ELKS. Therefore, our data suggest that a main role of SYD-2/Liprin-α in synaptogenesis is to regulate the polymerization of DPs.

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