A role for PS integrins in morphological growth and synaptic function at the postembryonic neuromuscular junction of Drosophila

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A family of three position-specific (PS) integrins are expressed at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ): a beta subunit (βPS), expressed in both presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes, and two alpha subunits (αPS1, αPS2), expressed at least in the postsynaptic membrane. PS integrins appear at postembryonic NMJs coincident with the onset of rapid morphological growth and terminal type-specific differentiation, and are restricted to type I synaptic boutons, which mediate fast, excitatory glutamatergic transmission. We show that two distinctive hypomorphic mutant alleles of the P subunit gene myospheroid (mysb9 and mys(ts1)), differentially affect βPS protein expression at the synapse to produce distinctive alterations in NMJ branching, bouton formation, synaptic architecture and the specificity of synapse formation on target cells. The mysb9 mutation alters βPS localization to cause a striking reduction in NMJ branching, bouton size/number and the formation of aberrant 'mini-boutons', which may represent a developmentally arrested state. The mys(ts1) mutation strongly reduces βPS expression to cause the opposite phenotype of excessive synaptic sprouting and morphological growth. NMJ function in these mutant conditions is altered in line with the severity of the morphological aberrations. Consistent with these mutant phenotypes, transgenic overexpression of the βPS protein with a heat-shock construct or tissue-specific GAL4 drivers causes a reduction in synaptic branching and bouton number. We conclude that βPS integrin at the postembryonic NMJ is a critical determinant of morphological growth and synaptic specificity. These data provide the first genetic evidence for a functional role of integrins at the postembryonic synapse.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5833-5846
Number of pages13
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999