Functional Neuroligin-2-MDGA1 interactions differentially regulate synaptic GABAARs and cytosolic gephyrin aggregation


Zeppillo T, Ali H, Wenger S, Lopez Murcia FJ, Gideons E, Signorelli J, Schmeisser MJ, Wiltfang J, Rhee JS, Brose N, Taschenberger H, Krueger-Burg D




bioRxiv 2022.08.08.503083


The function of GABAergic synapses is critically shaped by cell adhesion proteins that recruit GABAARs to synapses and mediate transsynaptic signalling, but the synapse-type-specific function of such synaptic adhesion proteins and their mutual interaction remain incompletely understood. A ubiquitous cell adhesion protein at GABAergic synapses is Neuroligin-2 (Nlgn2), which recruits synaptic GABAARs by promoting the assembly of the postsynaptic gephyrin scaffold. While Nlgn2 is present at virtually all GABAergic synapses throughout the forebrain, its loss affects different GABAergic synapse subtypes with different severity, indicating that synapse-specific interactors and synapse-organizer-redundancies define the function of Nlgn2 for a given synapse type. Here we investigated how Nlgn2 function at GABAergic synapses in mouse hippocampal area CA1 is modulated by two recently identified interaction partners, MDGA1 and MDGA2. We show that Nlgn2 and MDGA1 colocalize most prominently in the stratum radiatum (S.R.) of area CA1, and that combined Nlgn2 and MDGA1 deletion causes a layer-specific exacerbation of the loss of gephyrin puncta in layer S.R. seen following Nlgn2 deletion. Intriguingly, combined Nlgn2 and MDGA1 deletion concurrently ameliorates the abnormal cytosolic gephyrin aggregation, the reduction in inhibitory synaptic transmission and the exacerbated anxiety behavior seen in Nlgn2 knockout (KO) mice. In contrast, heterozygous deletion of MDGA2 in Nlgn2 KO mice has only minor effects on gephyrin and GABAAR puncta and does not normalize cytosolic gephyrin aggregates, inhibitory synaptic transmission or anxiety-related behavior. Our data indicate that MDGA1, but not MDGA2, modulates Nlgn2 function, primarily by regulating the formation of cytosolic gephyrin aggregates. Given that both Nlgn2 and the MDGA family of proteins have been linked to psychiatric disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, our data lead to the notion that abnormal gephyrin aggregation may contribute to the pathophysiology of these disorders, and that intervention with gephyrin aggregation could present a novel therapeutic strategy.