The extracellular matrix has emerged as an active component of chemical synapses regulating synaptic formation, maintenance and homeostasis. The heparan sulfate proteoglycan syndecans are known to regulate cellular and axonal migration in the brain. They are also enriched at synapses, but their synaptic functions remain more elusive. Here we show that SDN-1, the sole ortholog of syndecan in C. elegans, is absolutely required for the synaptic clustering of homomeric 7-like N-acetylcholine receptors (AChR) and regulates the synaptic content of heteromeric L-AChRs. SDN-1 is concentrated at neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) by the neurally-secreted synaptic organizer Ce-Punctin/MADD-4, which also activates the transmembrane netrin receptor DCC. Those cooperatively recruit the FARP and CASK orthologues that localize N-AChRs at cholinergic NMJs through physical interactions. Therefore, SDN-1 stands at the core of the cholinergic synapse organization by bridging the extracellular synaptic determinants to the intracellular synaptic scaffold that controls the postsynaptic receptor content.
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