Septate junctions (SJs) display a unique ultrastructural morphology with ladder-like electron densities that are conserved through evolution. Genetic and molecular analyses have identified a highly conserved core complex of SJ proteins consisting of three cell adhesion molecules Neurexin IV, Contactin, and Neuroglian, which interact with the cytoskeletal FERM domain protein Coracle. How these individual proteins interact to form the septal arrays that create the paracellular barrier is poorly understood. Here, we show that point mutations that map to specific domains of neurexin IV lead to formation of fewer septae and disorganization of SJs. Consistent with these observations, our in vivo domain deletion analyses identified the first Laminin G-EGF-Laminin G module in the extracellular region of Neurexin IV as necessary for the localization of and association with Contactin. Neurexin IV protein that is devoid of its cytoplasmic region is able to create septae, but fails to form a full complement of SJs. These data provide the first in vivo evidence that specific domains in Neurexin IV are required for protein-protein interactions and organization of SJs. Given the molecular conservation of SJ proteins across species, our studies may provide insights into how vertebrate axo-glial SJs are organized in myelinated axons.
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