Neurexins are presynaptic adhesion molecules that organize synapses by binding to diverse trans-synaptic ligands, but how neurexins are regulated is incompletely understood. Here we identify FAM19A/TAFA proteins, “orphan" cytokines, as neurexin regulators that interact with all neurexins, except for neurexin-1γ, via an unusual mechanism. Specifically, we show that FAM19A1-A4 bind to the cysteine-loop domain of neurexins by forming intermolecular disulfide bonds during transport through the secretory pathway. FAM19A-binding required both the cysteines of the cysteine-loop domain and an adjacent sequence of neurexins. Genetic deletion of neurexins suppressed FAM19A1 expression, demonstrating that FAM19As physiologically interact with neurexins. In hippocampal cultures, expression of exogenous FAM19A1 decreased neurexin O-glycosylation and suppressed its heparan sulfate modification, suggesting that FAM19As regulate the post-translational modification of neurexins. Given the selective expression of FAM19As in specific subtypes of neurons and their activity-dependent regulation, these results suggest that FAM19As serve as cell type–specific regulators of neurexin modifications.

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