Synapsin III (SynIII) is a phosphoprotein that is highly expressed at early stages of neuronal development. Whereas in vitro evidence suggests a role for SynIII in neuronal differentiation, in vivo evidence is lacking. Here, we demonstrate that in vivo downregulation of SynIII expression affects neuronal migration and orientation. By contrast, SynIII overexpression affects neuronal migration, but not orientation. We identify a cyclin-dependent kinase-5 (CDK5) phosphorylation site on SynIII and use phosphomutant rescue experiments to demonstrate its role in SynIII function. Finally, we show that SynIII phosphorylation at the CDK5 site is induced by activation of the semaphorin-3A (Sema3A) pathway, which is implicated in migration and orientation of cortical pyramidal neurons (PNs) and is known to activate CDK5. Thus, fine-tuning of SynIII expression and phosphorylation by CDK5 activation through Sema3A activity is essential for proper neuronal migration and orientation.
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