Neurotrophic factors (NTFs) support neuronal survival, differentiation, and even synaptic plasticity both during development and throughout the life of an organism. However, their precise roles in central synapse formation remain unknown. Previously, we demonstrated that excitatory synapse formation in Lymnaea stagnalis requires a source of extrinsic NTFs and receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) activation. Here we show that NTFs such as Lymnaea epidermal growth factor (L-EGF) act through RTKs to trigger a specific subset of intracellular signalling events in the postsynaptic neuron, which lead to the activation of the tumor suppressor menin, encoded by Lymnaea MEN1 (L-MEN1) and the expression of excitatory nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). We provide direct evidence that the activation of the MAPK/ERK cascade is required for the expression of nAChRs, and subsequent synapse formation between pairs of neurons in vitro. Furthermore, we show that L-menin activation is sufficient for the expression of postsynaptic excitatory nAChRs and subsequent synapse formation in media devoid of NTFs. By extending our findings in situ, we reveal the necessity of EGFRs in mediating synapse formation between a single transplanted neuron and its intact presynaptic partner. Moreover, deficits in excitatory synapse formation following EGFR knock-down can be rescued by injecting synthetic L-MEN1 mRNA in the intact central nervous system. Taken together, this study provides the first direct evidence that NTFs functioning via RTKs activate the MEN1 gene, which appears sufficient to regulate synapse formation between central neurons. Our study also offers a novel developmental role for menin beyond tumour suppression in adult humans.
Flynn, N., Getz, A., Visser, F., Janes, T. A., & Syed, N. I. (2014). Menin: A tumor suppressor that mediates postsynaptic receptor expression and Synaptogenesis between central neurons of Lymnaea stagnalis. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111103