The Latrophilins, “Split-Personality” Receptors

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Abstract

Latrophilin, a neuronal “adhesion-G protein-coupled receptor”, is the major brain receptor for α-latrotoxin, a black widow spider toxin which stimulates strong neuronal exocytosis in vertebrates. Latrophilin has an unusual structure consisting of two fragments that are produced by the proteolytic cleavage of the parental molecule and that behave independently in the plasma membrane. On binding an agonist, the fragments reassociate and send an intracellular signal. This signal, transduced by a heterotrimeric G protein, causes release of calcium from intracellular stores and massive release of neurotransmitters. Latrophilin represents a phylogenetically conserved family of receptors, with orthologues found in all animals and up to three homologues present in most chordate species. From mammalian homologues, latrophilins 1 and 3 are expressed in neurons, while latrophilin 2 is ubiquitous. Latrophilin 1 may control synapse maturation and exocytosis, whereas latrophilin 2 may be involved in breast cancer. Latrophilins may play different roles during development and in adult animals: thus, LAT-1 determines cell fate in early embryogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans and controls neurotransmitter release in adult nematodes. This diversity suggests that the functions of latrophilins may be determined by their interactions with respective ligands. The finding of the ligand of latrophilin 1, the large postsynaptic protein lasso, is the first step in the quest for the physiological functions of latrophilins.