Extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules contribute to the formation and maintenance of synapses in the mammalian nervous system. We previously discovered a family of nonfibrillar collagens that organize synaptic differentiation at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Although many NMJ-organizing cues contribute to central nervous system (CNS) synaptogenesis, whether similar roles for collagens exist at central synapses remained unclear. In the present study we discovered that col19a1, the gene encoding nonfibrillar collagen XIX, is expressed by subsets of hippocampal neurons. Colocalization with the interneuron-specific enzyme glutamate decarboxylase 67 (Gad67), but not other cell-type-specific markers, suggests that hippocampal expression of col19a1 is restricted to interneurons. However, not all hippocampal interneurons express col19a1 mRNA; subsets of neuropeptide Y (NPY)-, somatostatin (Som)-, and calbindin (Calb)-immunoreactive interneurons express col19a1, but those containing parvalbumin (Parv) or calretinin (Calr) do not. To assess whether collagen XIX is required for the normal formation of hippocampal synapses, we examined synaptic morphology and composition in targeted mouse mutants lacking collagen XIX. We show here that subsets of synaptotagmin 2 (Syt2)-containing hippocampal nerve terminals appear malformed in the absence of collagen XIX. The presence of Syt2 in inhibitory hippocampal synapses, the altered distribution of Gad67 in collagen XIX-deficient subiculum, and abnormal levels of gephyrin in collagen XIX-deficient hippocampal extracts all suggest inhibitory synapses are affected by the loss of collagen XIX. Together, these data not only reveal that collagen XIX is expressed by central neurons, but show for the first time that a nonfibrillar collagen is necessary for the formation of hippocampal synapses.
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