Synapsins regulate brain-derived neurotrophic factor-mediated synaptic potentiation and axon elongation by acting on membrane rafts. Academic Article uri icon


  • In neurons, intracellular membrane rafts are essential for specific actions of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which include the regulation of axon outgrowth, growth cone turning and synaptic transmission. Virtually, all the actions of BDNF are mediated by binding to its receptor, TrkB. The association of TrkB with the tyrosine kinase, Fyn, is critical for its localization to intracellular membrane rafts. Here, we show that synapsins, a family of highly amphipathic neuronal phosphoproteins, regulate membrane raft lipid composition and consequently, the ability of BDNF to regulate axon/neurite development and potentiate synaptic transmission. In the brains of mice lacking all synapsins, the expression of both BDNF and TrkB were increased, suggesting that BDNF/TrkB-mediated signaling is impaired. Consistent with this finding, synapsin-depleted neurons exhibit altered raft lipid composition, deficient targeting of Fyn to rafts, attenuated TrkB activation, and abrogation of BDNF-stimulated axon outgrowth and synaptic potentiation. Conversely, overexpression of synapsins in neuroblastoma cells results in corresponding reciprocal changes in raft lipid composition, increased localization of Fyn to rafts and promotion of BDNF-stimulated neurite formation. In the presence of synapsins, the ratio of cholesterol to estimated total phospholipids converged to 1, suggesting that synapsins act by regulating the ratio of lipids in intracellular membranes, thereby promoting lipid raft formation. These studies reveal a mechanistic link between BDNF and synapsins, impacting early development and synaptic transmission.

publication date

  • April 2017