Neuroligins, first discovered in rat brain, form a family of three synaptically enriched membrane proteins. Using reverse transcription–PCR of human brain polyadenylated RNA and extensive database searches, we identified the human homologues of the three rat neuroligins and a cDNA encoding a fourth member, which we named neuroligin 4. Neuroligin 4has 63–73% amino acid identity with the other members of the human neuroligin family, and the same predicted domain structure. DNA database analyses, furthermore, indicated that a possible fifth neuroligin gene may be present in the human genome. Northern-blot analysis revealed expression of neuroligin 4 in heart, liver, skeletal muscle and pancreas, but barely at all in brain. Overexpression of neuroligin 4 cDNA in COS-7 cells led to the production of a 110kDa protein. Immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated that the protein was integrated into the plasma membrane. Overexpression of cDNAs encoding neuroligin 4 and the PDZ-domain protein, PSD-95, in COS-7 cells resulted in the formation of detergent-resistant complexes. Neuroligin 4 did not bind to ZO-1, another PDZ-domain protein. Together, our data show that the human neuroligin family is composed of at least one additional member, and suggest that neuroligin 4 may also be produced outside the central nervous system.
Abbreviations used: EST, expressed sequence tag; RT–PCR, reverse transcription–PCR.
Present address: Biochemical Institute, University of Zürich, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.