A splicing isoform of GPR56 mediates microglial synaptic refinement via phosphatidylserine binding

EMBO J. 2020 Aug 17;39(16):e104136. doi: 10.15252/embj.2019104136. Epub 2020 May 25.


Developmental synaptic remodeling is important for the formation of precise neural circuitry, and its disruption has been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Microglia prune synapses, but integration of this synapse pruning with overlapping and concurrent neurodevelopmental processes, remains elusive. Adhesion G protein-coupled receptor ADGRG1/GPR56 controls multiple aspects of brain development in a cell type-specific manner: In neural progenitor cells, GPR56 regulates cortical lamination, whereas in oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, GPR56 controls developmental myelination and myelin repair. Here, we show that microglial GPR56 maintains appropriate synaptic numbers in several brain regions in a time- and circuit-dependent fashion. Phosphatidylserine (PS) on presynaptic elements binds GPR56 in a domain-specific manner, and microglia-specific deletion of Gpr56 leads to increased synapses as a result of reduced microglial engulfment of PS+ presynaptic inputs. Remarkably, a particular alternatively spliced isoform of GPR56 is selectively required for microglia-mediated synaptic pruning. Our present data provide a ligand- and isoform-specific mechanism underlying microglial GPR56-mediated synapse pruning in the context of complex neurodevelopmental processes.

Keywords: GPR56; adhesion GPCR; microglia; phosphatidylserine; synaptic pruning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylserines / genetics
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • GPR56 protein, mouse
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled