Chloride extrusion in mature neurons is largely mediated by the neuron-specific potassium-chloride cotransporter KCC2. In addition, independently of its chloride transport function, KCC2 regulates the development and morphology of dendritic spines through structural interactions with the actin cytoskeleton. The mechanism of this effect remains largely unknown. In this paper, we show a novel pathway for KCC2-mediated regulation of the actin cytoskeleton in neurons. We found that KCC2, through interaction with the b isoform of Rac/Cdc42 guanine nucleotide exchange factor β-PIX, regulates the activity of Rac1 GTPase and the phosphorylation of one of the major actin-regulating proteins, cofilin-1. KCC2-deficient neurons had abnormally high levels of phosphorylated cofilin-1. Consistently, dendritic spines of these neurons exhibited a large pool of stable actin, resulting in reduced spine motility and diminished density of functional synapses. In conclusion, we describe a novel signaling pathway that couples KCC2 to the cytoskeleton and regulates the formation of glutamatergic synapses.
© 2015 Llano et al.