Drosophila Homolog of the Human Carpenter Syndrome Linked Gene, MEGF8, Is Required for Synapse Development and Function

J Neurosci. 2022 Sep 14;42(37):7016-7030. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0442-22.2022. Epub 2022 Aug 9.


Drosophila multiple epidermal growth factor-like domains 8 (dMegf8) is a homolog of human MEGF8 MEGF8 encodes a multidomain transmembrane protein which is highly conserved across species. In humans, MEGF8 mutations cause a rare genetic disorder called Carpenter syndrome, which is frequently associated with abnormal left-right patterning, cardiac defects, and learning disabilities. MEGF8 is also associated with psychiatric disorders. Despite its clinical relevance, MEGF8 remains poorly characterized; and although it is highly conserved, studies on animal models of Megf8 are also very limited. The presence of intellectual disabilities in Carpenter syndrome patients and association of MEGF8 with psychiatric disorders indicate that mutations in MEGF8 cause underlying defects in synaptic structure and functions. In this study, we investigated the role of Drosophila dMegf8 in glutamatergic synapses of the larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) in both males and females. We show that dMegf8 localizes to NMJ synapses and is required for proper synaptic growth. dMegf8 mutant larvae and adults show severe motor coordination deficits. At the NMJ, dMegf8 mutants show altered localization of presynaptic and postsynaptic proteins, defects in synaptic ultrastructure, and neurotransmission. Interestingly, dMegf8 mutants have reduced levels of the Type II BMP receptor Wishful thinking (Wit). dMegf8 displays genetic interactions with neurexin-1 (dnrx) and wit, and in association with Dnrx and Wit plays an essential role in synapse organization. Our studies provide insights into human MEGF8 functions and potentially into mechanisms that may underlie intellectual disabilities observed in Carpenter syndrome as well as MEGF8-related synaptic structural and/or functional deficits in psychiatric disorders.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Carpenter syndrome, known for over a century now, is a genetic disorder linked to mutations in Multiple Epidermal Growth Factor-like Domains 8 (MEGF8) gene and associated with intellectual disabilities among other symptoms. MEGF8 is also associated with psychiatric disorders. Despite the high genetic conservation and clinical relevance, the functions of MEGF8 remain largely uncharacterized. Patients with intellectual disabilities and psychiatric diseases often have an underlying defect in synaptic structure and function. This work defines the role of the fly homolog of human MEGF8, dMegf8, in glutamatergic synapse growth, organization, and function and provide insights into potential functions of MEGF8 in human central synapses and synaptic mechanisms that may underlie psychiatric disorders and intellectual disabilities seen in Carpenter syndrome.

Keywords: BMP signaling; Carpenter syndrome; Drosophila larval NMJ; MEGF8; Neurexin-1; synapses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrocephalosyndactylia
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • EGF Family of Proteins / genetics
  • EGF Family of Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / genetics
  • Intellectual Disability* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins* / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins* / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • EGF Family of Proteins
  • Megf8 protein, Drosophila
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • wit protein, Drosophila

Supplementary concepts

  • Acrocephalopolysyndactyly Type II