The Wnt/planar cell polarity pathway component Vangl2 induces synapse formation through direct control of N-cadherin

Cell Rep. 2014 Mar 13;6(5):916-27. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.01.044. Epub 2014 Feb 27.


Although regulators of the Wnt/planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway are widely expressed in vertebrate nervous systems, their roles at synapses are unknown. Here, we show that Vangl2 is a postsynaptic factor crucial for synaptogenesis and that it coprecipitates with N-cadherin and PSD-95 from synapse-rich brain extracts. Vangl2 directly binds N-cadherin and enhances its internalization in a Rab5-dependent manner. This physical and functional interaction is suppressed by β-catenin, which binds the same intracellular region of N-cadherin as Vangl2. In hippocampal neurons expressing reduced Vangl2 levels, dendritic spine formation as well as synaptic marker clustering is significantly impaired. Furthermore, Prickle2, another postsynaptic PCP component, inhibits the N-cadherin-Vangl2 interaction and is required for normal spine formation. These results demonstrate direct control of classic cadherin by PCP factors; this control may play a central role in the precise formation and maturation of cell-cell adhesions at the synapse.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dogs
  • Drosophila
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Transfection
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*


  • Cadherins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • VANGL2 protein, human
  • Wnt Proteins