DFsn collaborates with Highwire to down-regulate the Wallenda/DLK kinase and restrain synaptic terminal growth

Chunlai Wu, Richard W. Daniels, Aaron DiAntonio

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Background: The growth of new synapses shapes the initial formation and subsequent rearrangement of neural circuitry. Genetic studies have demonstrated that the ubiquitin ligase Highwire restrains synaptic terminal growth by down-regulating the MAP kinase kinase kinase Wallenda/dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK). To investigate the mechanism of Highwire action, we have identified DFsn as a binding partner of Highwire and characterized the roles of DFsn in synapse development, synaptic transmission, and the regulation of Wallenda/DLK kinase abundance. Results: We identified DFsn as an F-box protein that binds to the RING-domain ubiquitin ligase Highwire and that can localize to the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Loss-of-function mutants for DFsn have a phenotype that is very similar to highwire mutants - there is a dramatic overgrowth of synaptic termini, with a large increase in the number of synaptic boutons and branches. In addition, synaptic transmission is impaired in DFsn mutants. Genetic interactions between DFsn and highwire mutants indicate that DFsn and Highwire collaborate to restrain synaptic terminal growth. Finally, DFsn regulates the levels of the Wallenda/DLK kinase, and wallenda is necessary for DFsn-dependent synaptic terminal overgrowth. Conclusion: The F-box protein DFsn binds the ubiquitin ligase Highwire and is required to down-regulate the levels of the Wallenda/DLK kinase and restrain synaptic terminal growth. We propose that DFsn and Highwire participate in an evolutionarily conserved ubiquitin ligase complex whose substrates regulate the structure and function of synapses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalNeural Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


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