CASK-interactive proteins, Caskin1 and Caskin2, are multidomain neuronal scaffold proteins. Recent data from Caskin1 knockout animals indicated only a mild role of Caskin1 in anxiety and pain perception. In this work, we show that deletion of both Caskins leads to severe deficits in novelty recognition and spatial memory. Ultrastructural analyses revealed a reduction in synaptic profiles and dendritic spine areas of CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons of double knockout mice. Loss of Caskin proteins impaired LTP induction in hippocampal slices, while miniature EPSCs in dissociated hippocampal cultures appeared to be unaffected. In cultured Caskin knockout hippocampal neurons, overexpressed Caskin1 was enriched in dendritic spine heads and increased the amount of mushroom-shaped dendritic spines. Chemically induced LTP (cLTP) mediated enlargement of spine heads was augmented in the knockout mice and was not influenced by Caskin1. Immunocytochemistry and immunoprecipitation confirmed that Shank2, a master scaffold of the postsynaptic density, and Caskin1 co-localized within the same complex. Phosphorylation of AMPA receptors was specifically altered by Caskin deficiency and was not elevated by cLTP treatment further. Taken together, our results prove a previously unnoticed postsynaptic role of Caskin scaffold proteins and indicate that Caskins influence learning abilities via regulating spine morphology and AMPA receptor localisation.
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