• hippocampus primary culture;
  • phosphorylation mutant;
  • rat;
  • synaptogenesis;
  • time-lapse microscopy


M6a is a neuronal membrane glycoprotein whose expression diminishes during chronic stress. M6a overexpression in rat primary hippocampal neurons induces the formation of filopodial protrusions that could be spine precursors. As the filopodium and spine motility has been associated with synaptogenesis, we analysed the motility of M6a-induced protrusions by time-lapse imaging. Our data demonstrate that the motile protrusions formed by the neurons overexpressing M6a were more abundant and moved faster than those formed in control cells. When different putative M6a phosphorylation sites were mutated, the neurons transfected with a mutant lacking intracellular phosphorylation sites bore filopodia, but these protrusions did not move as fast as those formed by cells overexpressing wild-type M6a. This suggests a role for M6a phosphorylation state in filopodium motility. Furthermore, we show that M6a-induced protrusions could be stabilized upon contact with presynaptic region. The motility of filopodia contacting or not neurites overexpressing synaptophysin was analysed. We show that the protrusions that apparently contacted synaptophysin-labeled cells exhibited less motility. The behavior of filopodia from M6a-overexpressing cells and control cells was alike. Thus, M6a-induced protrusions may be spine precursors that move to reach presynaptic membrane. We suggest that M6a is a key molecule for spine formation during development.