Gamma protocadherins are required for synaptic development in the spinal cord

Joshua A. Weiner, Xiaozhong Wang, Juan Carlos Tapia, Joshua R. Sanes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Fifty-eight cadherin-related protocadherin (Pcdh) genes are tandemly arrayed in three clusters (α, β, and γ) on mouse chromosome 18. The large number of clustered Pcdh family members, their presence at synapses, and the known binding specificities of other cadherin superfamily members all suggest that these Pcdh s play roles in specifying synaptic connectivity. Consistent with this idea, mice lacking all 22 genes of the Pcdh-γ cluster have decreased numbers of spinal cord synapses and are nearly immobile. Interpretation of this phenotype was complicated, however, by the fact that Pcdh-γ loss also led to apoptosis of many spinal interneurons. Here, we used two methods to circumvent apoptosis and neurodegeneration in Pcdh-γ mutant mice. First, we analyzed mutants lacking both Pcdh-γ proteins and the proapoptotic protein Bax. Second, we generated a hypomorphic allele of Pcdh-γ in which apoptosis was minimal. In both cases, spinal interneurons were preserved but the mice bore dramatically decreased numbers of spinal cord synapses and exhibited profound neurological defects. Moreover, synaptic function was compromised in neurons cultured from the hypomorphs. These results provide evidence for a direct role of γ-Pcdhs in synaptic development and establish genetic tools for elucidating their contribution to synaptic specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2005


  • Bax
  • Interneuron
  • Synaptogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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