The Small Optic Lobe (SOL) family of calpains are intracellular cysteine proteases that are expressed in the nervous system and play an important role in neuronal development in both Drosophila, where loss of this calpain leads to the eponymous small optic lobes, and in mouse and human, where loss of this calpain leads to eye anomalies. Some human individuals with biallelic variants in CAPN15 also have developmental delay and autism. However, neither the specific effect of the loss of the Capn15 protein on brain development nor the brain regions where this calpain is expressed in the adult is known. Here we show using small animal MRI that mice with the complete loss of Capn15 have smaller brains overall with larger decreases in the thalamus and subregions of the hippocampus. These losses are not seen in Capn15 conditional KO mice where Capn15 is knocked out only in excitatory neurons in the adult. Based on β-galactosidase expression in an insert strain where lacZ is expressed under the control of the Capn15 promoter, we show that Capn15 is expressed in adult mice, particularly in neurons involved in plasticity such as the hippocampus, lateral amygdala and Purkinje neurons, and partially in other non-characterized cell types. The regions of the brain in the adult where Capn15 is expressed do not correspond well to the regions of the brain most affected by the complete knockout suggesting distinct roles of Capn15 in brain development and adult brain function.
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