The assembly and maturation of neural circuits require a delicate balance between synapse formation and elimination. The cellular and molecular mechanisms that coordinate synaptogenesis and synapse elimination are poorly understood. In C. elegans, DD motoneurons respecify their synaptic connectivity during development by completely eliminating existing synapses and forming new synapses without changing cell morphology. Using loss- and gain-of-function genetic approaches, we demonstrate that CYY-1, a cyclin box-containing protein, drives synapse removal in this process. In addition, cyclin-dependent kinase-5 (CDK-5) facilitates new synapse formation by regulating the transport of synaptic vesicles to the sites of synaptogenesis. Furthermore, we show that coordinated activation of UNC-104/Kinesin3 and Dynein is required for patterning newly formed synapses. During the remodeling process, presynaptic components from eliminated synapses are recycled to new synapses, suggesting that signaling mechanisms and molecular motors link the deconstruction of existing synapses and the assembly of new synapses during structural synaptic plasticity.
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