Loss of EPAC2 alters dendritic spine morphology and inhibitory synapse density

Kelly A. Jones, Michiko Sumiya, Kevin M. Woolfrey, Deepak P. Srivastava, Peter Penzes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


EPAC2 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor that regulates GTPase activity of the small GTPase Rap and Ras and is highly enriched at synapses. Activation of EPAC2 has been shown to induce dendritic spine shrinkage and increase spine motility, effects that are necessary for synaptic plasticity. These morphological effects are dysregulated by rare mutations of Epac2 associated with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, EPAC2 destabilizes synapses through the removal of synaptic GluA2/3-containing AMPA receptors. Previous work has shown that Epac2 knockout mice (Epac2−/−) display abnormal social interactions, as well as gross disorganization of the frontal cortex and abnormal spine motility in vivo. In this study we sought to further understand the cellular consequences of knocking out Epac2 on the development of neuronal and synaptic structure and organization of cortical neurons. Using primary cortical neurons generated from Epac2+/+ or Epac2−/− mice, we confirm that EPAC2 is required for cAMP-dependent spine shrinkage. Neurons from Epac2−/− mice also displayed increased synaptic expression of GluA2/3-containing AMPA receptors, as well as of the adhesion protein N-cadherin. Intriguingly, analysis of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic proteins revealed that loss of EPAC2 resulted in altered expression of vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) but not vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGluT1), indicating an altered ratio of excitatory and inhibitory synapses onto neurons. Finally, examination of cortical neurons located within the anterior cingulate cortex further revealed subtle deficits in the establishment of dendritic arborization in vivo. These data provide evidence that loss of EPAC2 enhances the stability of excitatory synapses and increases the number of inhibitory inputs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Dendritic arborization
  • Dendritic spines
  • EPAC2
  • Excitatory and inhibitory balance
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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