Activity-dependent regulation of inhibitory synapse development by Npas4


Neuronal activity regulates the development and maturation of excitatory and inhibitory synapses in the mammalian brain. Several recent studies have identified signalling networks within neurons that control excitatory synapse development. However, less is known about the molecular mechanisms that regulate the activity-dependent development of GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid)-releasing inhibitory synapses. Here we report the identification of a transcription factor, Npas4, that plays a role in the development of inhibitory synapses by regulating the expression of activity-dependent genes, which in turn control the number of GABA-releasing synapses that form on excitatory neurons. These findings demonstrate that the activity-dependent gene program regulates inhibitory synapse development, and suggest a new role for this program in controlling the homeostatic balance between synaptic excitation and inhibition.

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Figure 1: Npas4 expression is regulated by neuronal activity in vitro and in vivo.
Figure 2: Npas4 regulates the number of GABAergic synapses in cultured hippocampal neurons.
Figure 3: Npas4 regulates GABAergic synapse development in organotypic hippocampal slices.
Figure 4: Npas4 has no effect on excitatory synaptogenesis but affects excitatory/inhibitory balance in neural circuits.
Figure 5: Npas4 controls a program of gene expression that regulates GABAergic synapses.
Figure 6: Knockdown of BDNF partially attenuates the ability of the Npas4-minigene to elevate GABAergic synapses.

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Primary accessions

Gene Expression Omnibus

Data deposits

Data have been placed in the GEO database under accession numbers GSE11256 and GSE11258.


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We thank members of the Greenberg laboratory for suggestions; S. Paradis, J. M. Gray, S. S. Margolis, J. Zieg and C. M. Fletcher for reading the manuscript; S. Vasquez for preparing primary neuronal cell cultures; M. Thompson, Y. Zhou and H. Ye for assistance in generating Npas4-/- mice; T. Diefenbach and the Neurobiology Program Imaging Center for assistance with confocal microscopy; M. Fagiolini for help with dissection of the visual cortex; and X. J. Liu and C. Chen for help with electrophysiology. M.E.G. acknowledges the generous support of the F. M. Kirby Foundation to the Neurobiology Program of the Children’s Hospital and support from the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation. This work was supported by a Lefler Foundation postdoctoral fellowship (Y.L.), a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and a Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellowship (B.L.B.), a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (A.D.L.), the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund (T.-K.K.) and Mental Retardation Research Center grant HD18655 and National Institutes of Health grants NS27572 and NS48276 (M.E.G.).

Author Contributions Y.L. and M.E.G. conceived and designed the experiments and wrote the manuscript. Y.L. performed or participated in each of the experiments described in the manuscript. B.L.B. performed the electrophysiological recordings and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. J.L.H. quantified Npas4 mRNA levels for the light stimulation experiment, generated the Npas4-minigene construct and performed the luciferase assay to characterize it, managed the Npas4 animal colony and provided extensive technical support. A.D.L. performed immunocytochemistry for the light stimulation experiment and confocal imaging of neurons in the synapse assay with Npas4-RNAi. A.C.K. provided technical support during the early phase of the study and helped generate many reagents used in this study including the Npas4 antibody, Npas4 knockout construct and Npas4-RNAi lentivirus. T.-K.K. performed the chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments. L.S.H. helped generate the Npas4 antibody. A.N.M. performed the initial chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments.

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Correspondence to Michael E. Greenberg.

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Lin, Y., Bloodgood, B., Hauser, J. et al. Activity-dependent regulation of inhibitory synapse development by Npas4. Nature 455, 1198–1204 (2008).

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