UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Francis Lab

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Neuroscience and Neurobiology


The functional properties of neural circuits are defined by the patterns of synaptic connections between their partnering neurons, but the mechanisms that stabilize circuit connectivity are poorly understood. We systemically examined this question at synapses onto newly characterized dendritic spines of C. elegans GABAergic motor neurons. We show that the presynaptic adhesion protein neurexin/NRX-1 is required for stabilization of postsynaptic structure. We find that early postsynaptic developmental events proceed without a strict requirement for synaptic activity and are not disrupted by deletion of neurexin/nrx-1. However, in the absence of presynaptic NRX-1, dendritic spines and receptor clusters become destabilized and collapse prior to adulthood. We demonstrate that NRX-1 delivery to presynaptic terminals is dependent on kinesin-3/UNC-104 and show that ongoing UNC-104 function is required for postsynaptic maintenance in mature animals. By defining the dynamics and temporal order of synapse formation and maintenance events in vivo, we describe a mechanism for stabilizing mature circuit connectivity through neurexin-based adhesion.


Neuronal dendrites, Fluorescence imaging, Cholinergics, Motor neurons, Synapses, Spine, Synaptic vesicles, Dendritic structure

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Copyright: © 2022 Oliver et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version



Oliver D, Ramachandran S, Philbrook A, Lambert CM, Nguyen KCQ, Hall DH, Francis MM. Kinesin-3 mediated axonal delivery of presynaptic neurexin stabilizes dendritic spines and postsynaptic components. PLoS Genet. 2022 Jan 28;18(1):e1010016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010016. PMID: 35089924; PMCID: PMC8827443. Link to article on publisher's site

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PLoS genetics

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.