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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Frontiers in Neuroscience, Volume 13, Issue 9, January 2019, Article number 27. First published by Frontiers Media.

The published version is available at Copyright © DePew et al.


To successfully integrate a neuron into a circuit, a myriad of developmental events must occur correctly and in the correct order. Neurons must be born and grow out toward a destination, responding to guidance cues to direct their path. Once arrived, each neuron must segregate to the correct sub-region before sorting through a milieu of incorrect partners to identify the correct partner with which they can connect. Finally, the neuron must make a synaptic connection with their correct partner; a connection that needs to be broadly maintained throughout the life of the animal while remaining responsive to modes of plasticity and pruning. Though many intricate molecular mechanisms have been discovered to regulate each step, recent work showed that a single family of proteins, the Teneurins, regulates a host of these developmental steps in Drosophila - an example of biological adaptive reuse. Teneurins first influence axon guidance during early development. Once neurons arrive in their target regions, Teneurins enable partner matching and synapse formation in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Despite these diverse processes and systems, the Teneurins use conserved mechanisms to achieve these goals, as defined by three tenets: (1) transsynaptic interactions with each other, (2) membrane stabilization via an interaction with and regulation of the cytoskeleton, and (3) a role for presynaptic Ten-a in regulating synaptic function. These processes are further distinguished by (1) the nature of the transsynaptic interaction - homophilic interactions (between the same Teneurins) to engage partner matching and heterophilic interactions (between different Teneurins) to enable synaptic connectivity and the proper apposition of pre- and postsynaptic sites and (2) the location of cytoskeletal regulation (presynaptic cytoskeletal regulation in the CNS and postsynaptic regulation of the cytoskeleton at the NMJ). Thus, both the roles and the mechanisms governing them are conserved across processes and synapses. Here, we will highlight the contributions of Drosophila synaptic biology to our understanding of the Teneurins, discuss the mechanistic conservation that allows the Teneurins to achieve common neurodevelopmental goals, and present new data in support of these points. Finally, we will posit the next steps for understanding how this remarkably versatile family of proteins functions to control multiple distinct events in the creation of a nervous system. © 2019 DePew, Aimino and Mosca.

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