J Neurosci 2019 Apr 31;39(15):2776-2791. Epub 2019 Jan 31.
State Key Laboratory for Molecular and Developmental Biology, CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China, and
Calpains are calcium-dependent, cytosolic proteinases active at neutral pH. They do not degrade but cleave substrates at limited sites. Calpains are implicated in various pathologies, such as ischemia, injuries, muscular dystrophy, and neurodegeneration. Despite so, the physiological function of calpains remains to be clearly defined. Using the neuromuscular junction of of both sexes as a model, we performed RNAi screening and uncovered that calpains negatively regulated protein levels of the glutamate receptor GluRIIA but not GluRIIB. We then showed that calpains enrich at the postsynaptic area, and the calcium-dependent activation of calpains induced cleavage of GluRIIA at Q788 of its C terminus. Further genetic and biochemical experiments revealed that different calpains genetically and physically interact to form a protein complex. The protein complex was required for the proteinase activation to downregulate GluRIIA. Our data provide a novel insight into the mechanisms by which different calpains act together as a complex to specifically control GluRIIA levels and consequently synaptic function. Calpain has been implicated in neural insults and neurodegeneration. However, the physiological function of calpains in the nervous system remains to be defined. Here, we show that calpain enriches at the postsynaptic area and negatively and specifically regulates GluRIIA, but not IIB, level during development. Calcium-dependent activation of calpain cleaves GluRIIA at Q788 of its C terminus. Different calpains constitute an active protease complex to cleave its target. This study reveals a critical role of calpains during development to specifically cleave GluRIIA at synapses and consequently regulate synaptic function.