Bcl-xL induces Drp1-dependent synapse formation in cultured hippocampal neurons

Hongmei Li, Yingbei Chen, Adrienne F. Jones, Richard H. Sanger, Leon P. Collis, Richard Flannery, Ewan C. McNay, Tingxi Yu, Robert Schwarzenbacher, Blaise Bossy, Ella Bossy-Wetzel, Michael V.L. Bennett, Marc Pypaert, John A. Hickman, Peter J.S. Smith, J. Marie Hardwick, Elizabeth A. Jonas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Maturation of neuronal synapses is thought to involve mitochondria. Bcl-xL protein inhibits mitochondria-mediated apoptosis but may have other functions in healthy adult neurons in which Bcl-xL is abundant. Here, we report that overexpression of Bcl-xL postsynaptically increases frequency and amplitude of spontaneous miniature synaptic currents in rat hippocampal neurons in culture. Bcl-xL, overexpressed either pre or postsynaptically, increases synapse number, the number and size of synaptic vesicle clusters, and mitochondrial localization to vesicle clusters and synapses, likely accounting for the changes in miniature synaptic currents. Conversely, knockdown of Bcl-xL or inhibiting it with ABT-737 decreases these morphological parameters. The mitochondrial fission protein, dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), is a GTPase known to localize to synapses and affect synaptic function and structure. The effects of Bcl-xL appear mediated through Drp1 because overexpression of Drp1 increases synaptic markers, and overexpression of the dominant-negative dnDrp1-K38A decreases them. Furthermore, Bcl-xL coimmunoprecipitates with Drp1 in tissue lysates, and in a recombinant system, Bcl-xL protein stimulates GTPase activity of Drp1. These findings suggest that Bcl-xL positively regulates Drp1 to alter mitochondrial function in a manner that stimulates synapse formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2169-2174
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 12 2008


  • ABT-737
  • Bcl-2
  • Cell death
  • Mitochondria
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Bcl-xL induces Drp1-dependent synapse formation in cultured hippocampal neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this