The team of Jean-Louis Bessereau uses the Caenorhabditis elegans worm to identify new molecules that control the formation of synapses. Despite the evolutionary distance that separates this nematode from humans, the synapses of C. elegans have very similar composition and function to that of mammals.
The team is particularly interested in the molecular mechanisms which ensure the localization of the receptors of the neurotransmitter GABA at the neuromuscular synapses of C. elegans. A work published in the journal Nature Communications elucidates the mode of action of DCC (Deleted in Colorectal Cancer) in the organization of these synapses. DCC is a netrin receptor, well-known for its role in axon guidance during development. However, DCC is also present in the adult mammalian brain and its role in the maturation and plasticity of synapses is emerging.
These data indicate that DCC is organizing an intracellular scaffold including the FARP proteins and CASK, two mutlimodular proteins for which multiple partners have been described. CASK plays a central role in this structure because it physically binds FARP, the GABA receptors and the neuroligin cell adhesion protein. Interestingly, FARP and CASK have also been implicated in the formation of synapses in the central nervous system of mammals. Thus, the results obtained in the nematode open up new perspectives for studying the synaptic role of DCC signaling in the adult brain.