J. Neurochem. (2012) 120, 741–751.
Synaptic remodeling has been postulated as a mechanism underlying synaptic plasticity and cell adhesion molecules are thought to contribute to this process. We examined the role of nectin-1 ectodomain shedding on synaptogenesis in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Nectins are Ca2+-independent immunoglobulin-like adhesion molecules, involved in cell-cell adherens junctions. Herein, we show that the processing of nectin-1 occurs by multiple endoproteolytic steps both in vivo and in vitro. We identified regions containing two distinct cleavage sites within the ectodomain of nectin-1. By alanine scanning mutagenesis, two point mutations that disrupt nectin-1 ectodomain cleavage events were identified. Expression of these mutants significantly alters the density of dendritic spines. These findings suggest that ectodomain shedding of nectin-1 regulates dendritic spine density and related synaptic functions.