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Neurofilament subunits are integral components of synapses and modulate neurotransmission and behavior in vivo



Synaptic roles for neurofilament (NF) proteins have rarely been considered. Here, we establish all four NF subunits as integral resident proteins of synapses. Compared with the population in axons, NF subunits isolated from synapses have distinctive stoichiometry and phosphorylation state, and respond differently to perturbations in vivo. Completely eliminating NF proteins from brain by genetically deleting three subunits (α-internexin, NFH and NFL) markedly depresses hippocampal long-term potentiation induction without detectably altering synapse morphology. Deletion of NFM in mice, but not the deletion of any other NF subunit, amplifies dopamine D1-receptor-mediated motor responses to cocaine while redistributing postsynaptic D1-receptors from endosomes to plasma membrane, consistent with a specific modulatory role of NFM in D1-receptor recycling. These results identify a distinct pool of synaptic NF subunits and establish their key role in neurotransmission in vivo, suggesting potential novel influences of NF proteins in psychiatric as well as neurological states.

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We thank Corrine Peterhoff for assistance with figures and Nicole Gogel for manuscript preparation. This work was supported by Grant 5R01AG005604 (RAN) from the National Institutes on Aging. BSB is supported by NIH grant (R01 AA019443).

Author Contributions

AY, HS, V, BSB and RAN designed the research; AY, HS, V, BSB, AK, AH, MB, J-HL and YS performed the research; AY, HS, V, BSB, MB, AK, AH, MVR, VD, J-PJ and RAN analyzed the data; PSM provided reagents; VM-YL provided reagents and critical advice; AY, HS and RAN wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to A Yuan or R A Nixon.

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Yuan, A., Sershen, H., Veeranna et al. Neurofilament subunits are integral components of synapses and modulate neurotransmission and behavior in vivo. Mol Psychiatry 20, 986–994 (2015).

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