Highwire is an extremely large, evolutionarily conserved E3 ubiquitin ligase that negatively regulates synaptic growth at the Drosophila NMJ. Highwire has been proposed to restrain synaptic growth by downregulating a synaptogenic signal. Here we identify such a downstream signaling pathway. A screen for suppressors of the highwire synaptic overgrowth phenotype yielded mutations in wallenda, a MAP kinase kinase kinase (MAPKKK) homologous to vertebrate DLK and LZK. wallenda is both necessary for highwire synaptic overgrowth and sufficient to promote synaptic overgrowth, and synaptic levels of Wallenda protein are controlled by Highwire and ubiquitin hydrolases. highwire synaptic overgrowth requires the MAP kinase JNK and the transcription factor Fos. These results suggest that Highwire controls structural plasticity of the synapse by regulating gene expression through a MAP kinase signaling pathway. In addition to controlling synaptic growth, Highwire promotes synaptic function through a separate pathway that does not require wallenda.
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