Synaptotagmin-1 (syt1) is a Ca(2+)-binding protein that functions in regulation of synaptic vesicle exocytosis at the synapse. Syt1 is expressed in many types of neurons well before synaptogenesis begins both in vivo and in vitro. To determine if expression of syt1 has a functional role in neuronal development before synapse formation, we examined the effects of syt1 overexpression and knockdown on the growth and branching of the axons of cultured primary embryonic day 8 chicken forebrain neurons. In vivo these neurons express syt1, and most have not yet extended axons. We present evidence that syt1 plays a role in regulating axon branching, while not regulating overall axon length. To study the effects of overexpression of syt1, we used adenovirus-mediated infection to introduce a syt1-YFP construct, or control GFP construct, into neurons. Syt1 levels were reduced using RNA interference. Overexpression of syt1 increased the formation of axonal filopodia and branches. Conversely, knockdown of syt1 decreased the number of axonal filopodia and branches. Time-lapse analysis of filopodial dynamics in syt1-overexpressing cells demonstrated that elevation of syt1 levels increased both the frequency of filopodial initiation and their lifespan. Taken together these data indicate that syt1 regulates the formation of axonal filopodia and branches before engaging in its conventional functions at the synapse.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.