Cerebellins are differentially expressed in selective subsets of neurons throughout the brain

J Comp Neurol. 2017 Oct 15;525(15):3286-3311. doi: 10.1002/cne.24278. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


Cerebellins are secreted hexameric proteins that form tripartite complexes with the presynaptic cell-adhesion molecules neurexins or 'deleted-in-colorectal-cancer', and the postsynaptic glutamate-receptor-related proteins GluD1 and GluD2. These tripartite complexes are thought to regulate synapses. However, cerebellins are expressed in multiple isoforms whose relative distributions and overall functions are not understood. Three of the four cerebellins, Cbln1, Cbln2, and Cbln4, autonomously assemble into homohexamers, whereas the Cbln3 requires Cbln1 for assembly and secretion. Here, we show that Cbln1, Cbln2, and Cbln4 are abundantly expressed in nearly all brain regions, but exhibit strikingly different expression patterns and developmental dynamics. Using newly generated knockin reporter mice for Cbln2 and Cbln4, we find that Cbln2 and Cbln4 are not universally expressed in all neurons, but only in specific subsets of neurons. For example, Cbln2 and Cbln4 are broadly expressed in largely non-overlapping subpopulations of excitatory cortical neurons, but only sparse expression was observed in excitatory hippocampal neurons of the CA1- or CA3-region. Similarly, Cbln2 and Cbln4 are selectively expressed, respectively, in inhibitory interneurons and excitatory mitral projection neurons of the main olfactory bulb; here, these two classes of neurons form dendrodendritic reciprocal synapses with each other. A few brain regions, such as the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract, exhibit astoundingly high Cbln2 expression levels. Viewed together, our data show that cerebellins are abundantly expressed in relatively small subsets of neurons, suggesting specific roles restricted to subsets of synapses.

Keywords: RRID: AB_10000240; RRID: AB_2067919; RRID: AB_2201528; RRID: AB_476894; RRID: AB_477329; RRID: AB_572264; RRID: AB_94259; cerebellin; molecules; neurexin; neuronal cell adhesion; protein isoforms; synapses; synaptogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Protein Precursors / genetics
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cbln1 protein, mouse
  • Cbln2 protein, mouse
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Protein Precursors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • cerebellin 4 precursor, mouse