The morphology of axon terminals changes with differentiation into mature synapses. A molecule that might regulate this process was identified by a screen of Drosophila mutants for abnormal motor activities. The still life (sif) gene encodes a protein homologous to guanine nucleotide exchange factors, which convert Rho-like guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) from a guanosine diphosphate-bound inactive state to a guanosine triphosphate-bound active state. The SIF proteins are found adjacent to the plasma membrane of synaptic terminals. Expression of a truncated SIF protein resulted in defects in neuronal morphology and induced membrane ruffling with altered actin localization in human KB cells. Thus, SIF proteins may regulate synaptic differentiation through the organization of the actin cytoskeleton by activating Rho-like GTPases.
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