Recently, leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins (LRRTMs) were found to be synaptic cell-adhesion molecules that, when expressed in nonneuronal cells, induce presynaptic differentiation in contacting axons. We now demonstrate that LRRTM2 induces only excitatory synapses, and that it also acts to induce synapses in transfected neurons similarly to neuroligin-1. Using affinity chromatography, we identified alpha- and beta-neurexins as LRRTM2 ligands, again rendering LRRTM2 similar to neuroligin-1. However, whereas neuroligins bind neurexins containing or lacking an insert in splice site #4, LRRTM2 only binds neurexins lacking an insert in splice site #4. Binding of neurexins to LRRTM2 can produce cell-adhesion junctions, consistent with a trans-interaction regulated by neurexin alternative splicing, and recombinant neurexin-1beta blocks LRRTM2's ability to promote presynaptic differentiation. Thus, our data suggest that two unrelated postsynaptic cell-adhesion molecules, LRRTMs and neuroligins, unexpectedly bind to neurexins as the same presynaptic receptor, but that their binding is subject to distinct regulatory mechanisms.
2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.