C1ql3 is a secreted neuronal protein that binds to BAI3, an adhesion-class GPCR. C1ql3 is homologous to other gC1q-domain proteins that control synapse numbers, but a role for C1ql3 in regulating synapse density has not been demonstrated. We show in cultured neurons that C1ql3 expression is activity dependent and supports excitatory synapse density. Using newly generated conditional and constitutive C1ql3 knockout mice, we found that C1ql3-deficient mice exhibited fewer excitatory synapses and diverse behavioral abnormalities, including marked impairments in fear memories. Using circuit-tracing tools and conditional ablation of C1ql3 targeted to specific brain regions, we demonstrate that C1ql3-expressing neurons in the basolateral amygdala project to the medial prefrontal cortex, that these efferents contribute to fear memory behavior, and that C1ql3 is required for formation and/or maintenance of these synapses. Our results suggest that C1ql3 is a signaling protein essential for subsets of synaptic projections and the behaviors controlled by these projections.
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