Synaptic cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) promote synapse formation in the developing nervous system. To what extent they maintain and can restore connections in the mature nervous system is unknown. Furthermore, how synaptic CAMs affect the growth of synapse-bearing neurites is unclear. Here, we use adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) to delete, re-, and overexpress the synaptic CAM NGL2 in individual retinal horizontal cells. When we removed NGL2 from horizontal cells, their axons overgrew and formed fewer synapses, irrespective of whether Ngl2 was deleted during development or in mature circuits. When we re-expressed NGL2 in knockout mice, horizontal cell axon territories and synapse numbers were restored, even if AAVs were injected after phenotypes had developed. Finally, overexpression of NGL2 in wild-type horizontal cells elevated synapse numbers above normal levels. Thus, NGL2 promotes the formation, maintenance, and restoration of synapses in the developing and mature retina, and restricts axon growth throughout life.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30388
StatePublished - Mar 19 2018


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