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Glutamatergic signaling through N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) is important for neuronal development and plasticity and is often dysregulated in psychiatric disorders. Mice mutant for the transcription factor Sp4 have reduced levels of NMDAR subunit 1 (NR1) protein, but not mRNA, and exhibit behavioral and memory deficits (Zhou et al., [2010] Human Molecular Genetics 19: 3797-3805). In developing cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs), Sp4 controls dendrite patterning (Ramos et al., [2007] Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104: 9882-9887). Sp4 target genes that regulate dendrite pruning or NR1 levels are not known. Here we report that Sp4 activates transcription of Nervous Wreck 2 (Nwk2; also known as Fchsd1) and, further, that Nwk2, an F-BAR domain-containing protein, mediates Sp4-dependent regulation of dendrite patterning and cell surface expression of NR1. Knockdown of Nwk2 in CGNs increased primary dendrite number, phenocopying Sp4 knockdown, and exogenous expression of Nwk2 in Sp4-depleted neurons rescued dendrite number. We observed that acute Sp4 depletion reduced levels of surface, but not total, NR1, and this was rescued by Nwk2 expression. Furthermore, expression of Nr1 suppressed the increase in dendrite number in Sp4- or Nwk2- depleted neurons. We previously reported that Sp4 protein levels were reduced in cerebellum of subjects with bipolar disorder (BD) (Pinacho et al., [2011] Bipolar Disorders 13: 474-485). Here we report that Nwk2 mRNA and NR1 protein levels were also reduced in postmortem cerebellum of BD subjects. Our data suggest a role for Sp4-regulated Nwk2 in NMDAR trafficking and identify a Sp4-Nwk2-NMDAR1 pathway that regulates neuronal morphogenesis during development and may be disrupted in bipolar disorder.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Neurobiol

Publication Date





93 - 108


F-BAR domain, NMDAR, bipolar disorder, trafficking, transcription factor, Adult, Aged, Animals, Bipolar Disorder, Carrier Proteins, Cerebellum, Dendrites, Female, Humans, Male, Membrane Proteins, Mice, Middle Aged, Morphogenesis, Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate, Signal Transduction, Sp4 Transcription Factor