The equilibrium between antagonistic signaling pathways determines the number of synapses in <i>Drosophila</i>
by Sheila Jordán-Álvarez, Elena Santana, Sergio Casas-Tintó, Ángel Acebes, Alberto FerrúsThe number of synapses is a major determinant of behavior and many neural diseases exhibit deviations in that number. However, how signaling pathways control this number is still poorly understood. Using the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction, we show here a PI3K-dependent pathway for synaptogenesis which is functionally connected with other previously known elements including the Wit receptor, its ligand Gbb, and the MAPkinases cascade. Based on epistasis assays, we determined the functional hierarchy within the pathway. Wit seems to trigger signaling through PI3K, and Ras85D also contributes to the initiation of synaptogenesis. However, contrary to other signaling pathways, PI3K does not require Ras85D binding in the context of synaptogenesis. In addition to the MAPK cascade, Bsk/JNK undergoes regulation by Puc and Ras85D which results in a narrow range of activity of this kinase to determine normalcy of synapse number. The transcriptional readout of the synaptogenesis pathway involves the Fos/Jun complex and the repressor Cic. In addition, we identified an antagonistic pathway that uses the transcription factors Mad and Medea and the microRNA bantam to down-regulate key elements of the pro-synaptogenesis pathway. Like its counterpart, the anti-synaptogenesis signaling uses small GTPases and MAPKs including Ras64B, Ras-like-a, p38a and Licorne. Bantam downregulates the pro-synaptogenesis factors PI3K, Hiw, Ras85D and Bsk, but not AKT. AKT, however, can suppress Mad which, in conjunction with the reported suppression of Mad by Hiw, closes the mutual regulation between both pathways. Thus, the number of synapses seems to result from the balanced output from these two pathways.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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