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Presynaptic active zone cytomatrix proteins are essential elements of neurotransmitter release machinery that govern neural transmission. Among active zone proteins, cytomatrix at the active zone-associated structural protein (CAST) is known to regulate active zone size in retinal photoreceptors and neurotransmitter release by recruiting Ca2+ channels at various synapses. However, the role of ELKS- A protein from the same family as CAST- A nd the synergistic roles of CAST/ELKS have not been thoroughly investigated, particularly with regard to mouse behavior. Here, we generated ELKS conditional KO in mouse forebrain synapses by crossing ELKS flox mice with a CaMKII promoter-induced Cre line. Results showed that CAST is dominant at these synapses and that ELKS can support CAST function, but is less effective in the ELKS single KO. Pups of CAST/ELKS double KO in the forebrain were born in Mendelian rations but resulted in eventual death right after the birth. Anatomically, the forebrain neuronal compositions of CAST KO and CAST/ELKS double KO mice were indistinguishable, and the sensory neural network from whiskers on the face was identified as barrelette-like patches in the spinal trigeminal nucleus. Therefore, depletion of CAST and ELKS disrupts neurotransmission from sensory to motor networks, which can lead to deficits in exploration and failure to suckle.
Hagiwara, A., Hamada, S., Hida, Y., & Ohtsuka, T. (2020). Double deletion of the active zone proteins CAST/ELKS in the mouse forebrain causes high mortality of newborn pups. Molecular Brain, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13041-020-0557-x