The Drosophila Serrate is Required for Synaptic Structure and Function at Larval Neuromuscular Junctions
AdvisorZinsmaier, Konrad E.
Committee ChairZinsmaier, Konrad E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDrosophila melanogaster is an excellent model system to identify genes involved in synaptic growth and function. In Drosophila, the Serrate (Ser) gene encodes a transmembrane protein that is a ligand for Notch receptor. Several previous studies implicated a role for Serrate in normal wing development and patterning. In this study, I demonstrate that Serrate is required for normal synaptic growth and function. I characterized the phenotype of a Serrate mutation (serB936) that was identified by an EMS-induced genetic screen aimed at identifying novel genes that play a role in synaptic growth and function. Co-localization studies show that Serrate protein is expressed at both the pre- and postsynaptic side of larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Mutations in ser impair synaptic transmission at larval NMJs. This defect is entirely presynaptic, as nerve-evoked excitatory junction potentials (EJP) and quantal content (QC) of neurotransmitter release are significantly reduced when compared to wild-type control. Further, mutations in ser also alter the growth of the NMJ and the underlying muscle. Mutations in ser significantly reduce the size of larval body wall muscles (length and surface area) as well as the number and size of synaptic boutons, and the number of secondary axonal branches. Ubiquitous or muscle-specific expression of normal Serrate in serB936 mutants restores a normal muscle size but not a normal size and structure of the innervating NMJ. However, expression of normal Serrate in the motor axon restores a normal number of synaptic boutons and secondary branches at serB936 mutant NMJs. In addition, it restores normal neurotransmitter release. These data suggest that Serrate protein is required presynaptically for normal synaptic growth and function. Interestingly, overexpression of Serrate in a wild type background resulted in similar phenotypes than to those of loss-of-function mutants. In conclusion, these data suggest a new functional role for Serrate in synaptic growth and function.
Degree ProgramMolecular & Cellular Biology