The atypical cadherin flamingo regulates synaptogenesis and helps prevent axonal and synaptic degeneration in Drosophila

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2007 Apr;34(4):662-78. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2007.01.007. Epub 2007 Jan 25.


The formation of synaptic connections with target cells and maintenance of axons are highly regulated and crucial for neuronal function. The atypical cadherin and G-protein-coupled receptor Flamingo and its orthologs in amphibians and mammals have been shown to regulate cell polarity, dendritic and axonal growth, and neural tube closure. However, the role of Flamingo in synapse formation and function and in axonal health remains poorly understood. Here we show that fmi mutations cause a significant increase in the number of ectopic synapses on muscles and result in the formation of novel en passant synapses along axons, and unique presynaptic varicosities, including active zones, within axons. The fmi mutations also cause defective synaptic responses in a small subset of muscles, an age-dependent loss of muscle innervation and a drastic degeneration of axons in 3rd instar larvae without an apparent loss of neurons. Neuronal expression of Flamingo rescues all of these synaptic and axonal defects and larval lethality. Based on these observations, we propose that Flamingo is required in neurons for synaptic target selection, synaptogenesis, the survival of axons and synapses, and adult viability. These findings shed new light on a possible role for Flamingo in progressive neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System / embryology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / embryology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / growth & development
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism*
  • Organogenesis / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Cadherins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • stan protein, Drosophila