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EGFR-dependent suppression of synaptic autophagy is required for neuronal circuit development
Suchetana B Dutta, Gerit Arne Linneweber, Maheva Andriatsilavo, Peter Robin Hiesinger, Bassem A Hassan
brain development, neural circuit, synaptogenesis, autophagy
The development of neuronal connectivity requires stabilization of dynamic axonal branches at sites of synapse formation. Models that explain how axonal branching is coupled to synaptogenesis postulate molecular regulators acting in a spatiotemporally restricted fashion to ensure branching toward future synaptic partners while also stabilizing the emerging synaptic contacts between such partners. We investigated this question using neuronal circuit development in the Drosophila brain as a model system. We report that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity is required in presynaptic axonal branches during two distinct temporal intervals to regulate circuit wiring in the developing Drosophila visual system. EGFR is required early to regulate primary axonal branching. EGFR activity is then independently required at a later stage to prevent degradation of the synaptic active zone protein Bruchpilot (Brp). Inactivation of EGFR results in a local increase of autophagy in presynaptic branches and the translocation of active zone proteins into autophagic vesicles. The protection of synaptic material during this later interval of wiring ensures the stabilization of terminal branches, circuit connectivity, and appropriate visual behavior. Phenotypes of EGFR inactivation can be rescued by increasing Brp levels or downregulating autophagy. In summary, we identify a temporally restricted molecular mechanism required for coupling axonal branching and synaptic stabilization that contributes to the emergence of neuronal wiring specificity.