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The octomeric exocyst complex governs the final step of exocytosis in both plants and animals. Its roles, however, extend beyond exocytosis and include organelle biogenesis, ciliogenesis, cell migration, and cell growth. Exo70 is a conserved component of the exocyst whose function in Drosophila is unclear. In this study, we characterized two mutant alleles of Drosophila exo70. exo70 mutants exhibit reduced synaptic growth, locomotor activity, glutamate receptor density, and mEPSP amplitude. We found that presynaptic Exo70 is necessary for normal synaptic growth at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). At the neuromuscular junction, exo70 genetically interacts with the small GTPase ralA to regulate synaptic growth. Loss of Exo70 leads to the blockage of JNK signaling-, activity-, and temperature-induced synaptic outgrowths. We showed that this phenotype is associated with an impairment of integral membrane protein transport to the cell surface at synaptic terminals. In octopaminergic motor neurons, Exo70 is detected in synaptic varicosities, as well as the regions of membrane extensions in response to activity stimulation. Strikingly, mild thermal stress causes severe neurite outgrowth defects and pharate adult lethality in exo70 mutants. exo70 mutants also display defective locomotor activity in response to starvation stress. These results demonstrated that Exo70 is an important regulator of induced synaptic growth and is crucial for an organism’s adaptation to environmental changes.


Originally published in the Journal of Neuroscience (12 September 2018), Vol. 38 (No. 37) pgs. 8071-8086; DOI:

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