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J Neurosci. 2013 Jan 30;33(5):1846-57. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4284-12.2013.

Abl2/Arg controls dendritic spine and dendrite arbor stability via distinct cytoskeletal control pathways.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Rho family GTPases coordinate cytoskeletal rearrangements in neurons, and mutations in their regulators are associated with mental retardation and other neurodevelopmental disorders (Billuart et al., 1998; Kutsche et al., 2000; Newey et al., 2005; Benarroch, 2007). Chromosomal microdeletions encompassing p190RhoGAP or its upstream regulator, the Abl2/Arg tyrosine kinase, have been observed in cases of mental retardation associated with developmental defects (Scarbrough et al., 1988; James et al., 1996; Takano et al., 1997; Chaabouni et al., 2006; Leal et al., 2009). Genetic knock-out of Arg in mice leads to synapse, dendritic spine, and dendrite arbor loss accompanied by behavioral deficits (Moresco et al., 2005; Sfakianos et al., 2007). To elucidate the cell-autonomous mechanisms by which Arg regulates neuronal stability, we knocked down Arg in mouse hippocampal neuronal cultures. We find that Arg knockdown significantly destabilizes dendrite arbors and reduces dendritic spine density by compromising dendritic spine stability. Inhibiting RhoA prevents dendrite arbor loss following Arg knockdown in neurons, but does not block spine loss. Interestingly, Arg-deficient neurons exhibit increased miniature EPSC amplitudes, and their remaining spines exhibit larger heads deficient in the actin stabilizing protein cortactin. Spine destabilization in Arg knockdown neurons is prevented by blocking NMDA receptor-dependent relocalization of cortactin from spines, or by forcing cortactin into spines via fusion to an actin-binding region of Arg. Thus, Arg employs distinct mechanisms to selectively regulate spine and dendrite stability: Arg dampens activity-dependent disruption of cortactin localization to stabilize spines and attenuates Rho activity to stabilize dendrite arbors.

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