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J Neurosci. 2017 Apr 26;37(17):4525-4539. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3352-16.2017. Epub 2017 Mar 27.

Early Golgi Abnormalities and Neurodegeneration upon Loss of Presynaptic Proteins Munc18-1, Syntaxin-1, or SNAP-25.

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Department of Functional Genomics and.
Department of Clinical Genetics, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, VU University Amsterdam and VU Medical Center, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Functional Genomics and


The loss of presynaptic proteins Munc18-1, syntaxin-1, or SNAP-25 is known to produce cell death, but the underlying features have not been compared experimentally. Here, we investigated these features in cultured mouse CNS and DRG neurons. Side-by-side comparisons confirmed massive cell death, before synaptogenesis, within 1-4 DIV upon loss of t-SNAREs (syntaxin-1, SNAP-25) or Munc18-1, but not v-SNAREs (synaptobrevins/VAMP1/2/3 using tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT), also in TI-VAMP/VAMP7 knock-out (KO) neurons). A condensed cis-Golgi was the first abnormality observed upon Munc18-1 or SNAP-25 loss within 3 DIV. This phenotype was distinct from the Golgi fragmentation observed in apoptosis. Cell death was too rapid after syntaxin-1 loss to study Golgi abnormalities. Syntaxin-1 and Munc18-1 depend on each other for normal cellular levels. We observed that endogenous syntaxin-1 accumulates at the Golgi of Munc18-1 KO neurons. However, expression of a non-neuronal Munc18 isoform that does not bind syntaxin-1, Munc18-3, in Munc18-1 KO neurons prevented cell death and restored normal cis-Golgi morphology, but not synaptic transmission or syntaxin-1 targeting. Finally, we observed that DRG neurons are the only Munc18-1 KO neurons that do not degenerate in vivo or in vitro In these neurons, cis-Golgi abnormalities were less severe, with no changes in Golgi shape. Together, these data demonstrate that cell death upon Munc18-1, syntaxin-1, or SNAP-25 loss occurs via a degenerative pathway unrelated to the known synapse function of these proteins and involving early cis-Golgi abnormalities, distinct from apoptosis.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This study provides new insights in a neurodegeneration pathway triggered by the absence of specific proteins involved in synaptic transmission (syntaxin-1, Munc18-1, SNAP-25), whereas other proteins involved in the same molecular process (synaptobrevins, Munc13-1/2) do not cause degeneration. Massive cell death occurs in cultured neurons upon depleting syntaxin-1, Munc18-1, and/or SNAP-25, well before synapse formation. This study characterizes several relevant cellular phenotypes, especially early cis-Golgi abnormalities, distinct from abnormalities observed during apoptosis, and rules out several other phenotypes as causal (defects in syntaxin-1 targeting and synaptic transmission). As proteins, such as syntaxin-1, Munc18-1, or SNAP-25, modulate α-synuclein neuropathy and/or are dysregulated in Alzheimer's disease, understanding this type of neurodegeneration may provide new links between synaptic defects and neurodegeneration in humans.


exocytosis; neurodegeneration; presynaptic proteins; synaptic transmission

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