The supramolecular anchoring/signaling complex at the postsynaptic density of glutamatergic synapses has been proposed to play a key role in regulating synaptic function and plasticity. One class of proteins present in the complex is the SAP90/PSD-95-associated protein family (SAPAPs). The SAPAPs, identified by their direct interaction with PSD-95 family proteins, were initially proposed to function in the anchoring/signaling complex as linker proteins between glutamate receptor binding proteins and the cytoskeleton. However, recent studies have indicated that the SAPAPs also bind to signaling molecules and may thus have multiple roles at synapses. Four homologous genes encoding SAPAP proteins have been previously identified. As a first step toward understanding the physiological function of the SAPAPs, we have investigated in detail, at both the mRNA and protein levels, the localization of the individual SAPAP genes in the adult murine nervous system. We find that the SAPAP mRNAs are highly, yet differentially, expressed in many regions of the brain, including the hippocampus and cerebellum. Furthermore, SAPAP3 mRNA is targeted to dendrites, whereas SAPAP1, -2, and -4 mRNAs are detected mainly in cell bodies. The SAPAP proteins are localized at synapses in a manner consistent with mRNA expression. Surprisingly, in addition to glutamatergic synapse localization, antibody staining also reveals that the SAPAP proteins are localized at cholinergic synapses, including neuronal cholinergic synapses and the neuromuscular junction. Together, these results indicate that the SAPAPs are general components of excitatory synapses and that each of these proteins may perform a distinct function.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.