M. Hadi Saiepour, Rogier Min, Willem Kamphuis, J. Alexander Heimel, Christiaan N. Levelt; β-Catenin in the Adult Visual Cortex Regulates NMDA-Receptor Function and Visual Responses. Cereb Cortex 2017 1-12. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx029
The formation, plasticity and maintenance of synaptic connections is regulated by molecular and electrical signals. β-Catenin is an important protein in these events and regulates cadherin-mediated cell adhesion and the recruitment of pre- and postsynaptic proteins in an activity-dependent fashion. Mutations in the β-catenin gene can cause cognitive disability and autism, with life-long consequences. Understanding its synaptic function may thus be relevant for the treatment of these disorders. So far, β-catenin's function has been studied predominantly in cell culture and during development but knowledge on its function in adulthood is limited. Here, we show that ablating β-catenin in excitatory neurons of the adult visual cortex does not cause the same synaptic deficits previously observed during development. Instead, it reduces NMDA-receptor currents and impairs visual processing. We conclude that β-catenin remains important for adult cortical function but through different mechanisms than during development.