Axonal branching and synapse formation are tightly linked developmental events during the establishment of synaptic circuits. Newly formed synapses promote branch initiation and stability. However, little is known about molecular mechanisms that link these two processes. Here, we show that local assembly of an F-actin cytoskeleton at nascent presynaptic sites initiates both synapse formation and axon branching. We further find that assembly of the F-actin network requires a direct interaction between the synaptic cell adhesion molecule SYG-1 and a key regulator of actin cytoskeleton, the WVE-1/WAVE regulatory complex (WRC). SYG-1 cytoplasmic tail binds to the WRC using a consensus WRC interacting receptor sequence (WIRS). WRC mutants or mutating the SYG-1 WIRS motif leads to loss of local F-actin, synaptic material, and axonal branches. Together, these data suggest that synaptic adhesion molecules, which serve as a necessary component for both synaptogenesis and axonal branch formation, directly regulate subcellular actin cytoskeletal organization.
Mutations in SHANK3 and large duplications of the region spanning SHANK3 both cause a spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders, indicating that proper SHANK3 dosage is critical for normal brain function. However, SHANK3 overexpression per se has not been established as a cause of human disorders because 22q13 duplications involve several genes. Here we report that Shank3 transgenic mice modelling a human SHANK3 duplication exhibit manic-like behaviour and seizures consistent with synaptic excitatory/inhibitory imbalance. We also identified two patients with hyperkinetic disorders carrying the smallest SHANK3-spanning duplications reported so far. These findings indicate that SHANK3 overexpression causes a hyperkinetic neuropsychiatric disorder. To probe the mechanism underlying the phenotype, we generated a Shank3 in vivo interactome and found that Shank3 directly interacts with the Arp2/3 complex to increase F-actin levels in Shank3 transgenic mice. The mood-stabilizing drug valproate, but not lithium, rescues the manic-like behaviour of Shank3 transgenic mice raising the possibility that this hyperkinetic disorder has a unique pharmacogenetic profile.