The Development of Excitatory Synapses and Complex Behavior
Hoy, Jennifer Lyn, 1981-
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Hoy, Jennifer Lyn, 1981-
Excitatory glutamatergic synapses facilitate important aspects of communication between the neurons that govern complex forms of behavior. Accordingly, small differences in the molecular composition of glutamatergic synapses have been suggested to underlie neurodevelopment disorders, drive evolutionary changes in brain function and behavior, and enhance specific aspects of cognition in mammals. The appropriate development and later function of these structures in the adult involves the wellcoordinated activities of hundreds of molecules. Therefore, an important goal in neuroscience is to identify and characterize how specific molecules contribute to the development of excitatory synapses as well as how manipulations of their function impact neural systems and behavior throughout life. This dissertation describes two important contributions toward this effort, (1) that the newly discovered molecule, Synaptic Cell Adhesion Molecule 1 (SynCAM1) specifically contributes to the early stages of glutamatergic synapse formation and (2) that Neuroligin1 (NL1) contributes to the mature function of glutamatergic synapses and mature forms of behavior in vivo. In the first set of experiments, I developed an in vitro cell based assay in order to determine the minimal molecular components necessary to recruit developmentally relevant glutamate receptor subtypes to sites of adhesion mediated by SynCAM1. In these experiments we discovered that protein 4.1B interacted with SynCAM1 in order to cause the specific recruitment of the NMDA type glutamate receptor containing the NR2B subunit. In the second set of experiments, we show that expression of NL1 missing the terminal 55 amino acids enhanced short term learning and flexibility in behaving mice while increasing the number of immature excitatory postsynaptic structures. Interestingly, this behavioral profile had components more consistent with 1 month old juvenile controls than age matched control littermates. In contrast, full length NL1 overexpression impaired learning and enhanced perseverance while yielding an increase in the proportion of synapses with mature characteristics. These results suggest that NL1's C-terminus drives the synaptic maturation process that shapes the development of complex behavior. Both studies bolster our understanding of how specific molecules impact the development of excitatory synapses and complex behavior. This dissertation includes both my previously published and unpublished co-authored material.