Neph2/Kirrel3 regulates sensory input, motor coordination, and home-cage activity in rodents

Genes Brain Behav. 2018 Nov;17(8):e12516. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12516. Epub 2018 Sep 14.


Adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily (IgSF) are essential for neuronal synapse development across evolution and control various aspects of synapse formation and maturation. Neph2, also known as Kirrel3, is an IgSF adhesion molecule implicated in synapse formation, synaptic transmission and ultrastructure. In humans, defects in the NEPH2 gene have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Jacobsen syndrome, intellectual disability, and autism-spectrum disorders. However, the precise role in development and function of the nervous system is still unclear. Here, we present the histomorphological and phenotypical analysis of a constitutive Neph2-knockout mouse line. Knockout mice display defects in auditory sensory processing, motor skills, and hyperactivity in the home-cage analysis. Olfactory, memory and metabolic testing did not differ from controls. Despite the wide-spread expression of Neph2 in various brain areas, no gross anatomic defects could be observed. Neph2 protein could be located at the cerebellar pinceaux. It interacted with the pinceau core component neurofascin and other synaptic proteins thus suggesting a possible role in cerebellar synapse formation and circuit assembly. Our results suggest that Neph2/Kirrel3 acts on the synaptic ultrastructural level and neuronal wiring rather than on ontogenetic events affecting macroscopic structure. Neph2-knockout mice may provide a valuable rodent model for research on autism spectrum diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Keywords: Jacobsen syndrome; Kirrel3; Neph2; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; autism-spectrum disorder; behavior; cerebellum; intellectual disability; knockout; neurodevelopmental disorders; neurofascin; olfaction; phenotyping.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Immunoglobulins / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Kirrel3 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins