An autism-associated variant of epac2 reveals a role for ras/epac2 signaling in controlling basal dendrite maintenance in mice

Deepak P. Srivastava, Kevin M. Woolfrey, Kelly A. Jones, Charles T. Anderson, Katharine R. Smith, Theron A. Russell, Hyerin Lee, Marina V. Yasvoina, David L. Wokosin, P. Hande Ozdinler, Gordon M.G. Shepherd, Peter Penzes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The architecture of dendritic arbors determines circuit connectivity, receptive fields, and computational properties of neurons, and dendritic structure is impaired in several psychiatric disorders. While apical and basal dendritic compartments of pyramidal neurons are functionally specialized and differentially regulated, little is known about mechanisms that selectively maintain basal dendrites. Here we identified a role for the Ras/Epac2 pathway in maintaining basal dendrite complexity of cortical neurons. Epac2 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for the Ras-like small GTPase Rap, and it is highly enriched in the adult mouse brain. We found that in vivo Epac2 knockdown in layer 2/3 cortical neurons via in utero electroporation reduced basal dendritic architecture, and that Epac2 knockdown in mature cortical neurons in vitro mimicked this effect. Overexpression of an Epac2 rare coding variant, found in human subjects diagnosed with autism, also impaired basal dendritic morphology. This mutation disrupted Epac2's interaction with Ras, and inhibition of Ras selectively interfered with basal dendrite maintenance. Finally, we observed that components of the Ras/Epac2/Rap pathway exhibited differential abundance in the basal versus apical dendritic compartments. These findings define a role for Epac2 in enabling crosstalk between Ras and Rap signaling in maintaining basal dendrite complexity, and exemplify how rare coding variants, in addition to their disease relevance, can provide insight into cellular mechanisms relevant for brain connectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1001350
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'An autism-associated variant of epac2 reveals a role for ras/epac2 signaling in controlling basal dendrite maintenance in mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this