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J Cell Biol. 2002 Feb 4;156(3):555-65. Epub 2002 Feb 4.

Nectin: an adhesion molecule involved in formation of synapses.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


The nectin-afadin system is a novel cell-cell adhesion system that organizes adherens junctions cooperatively with the cadherin-catenin system in epithelial cells. Nectin is an immunoglobulin-like adhesion molecule, and afadin is an actin filament-binding protein that connects nectin to the actin cytoskeleton. Nectin has four isoforms (-1, -2, -3, and -4). Each nectin forms a homo-cis-dimer followed by formation of a homo-trans-dimer, but nectin-3 furthermore forms a hetero-trans-dimer with nectin-1 or -2, and the formation of each hetero-trans-dimer is stronger than that of each homo-trans-dimer. We show here that at the synapses between the mossy fiber terminals and dendrites of pyramidal cells in the CA3 area of adult mouse hippocampus, the nectin-afadin system colocalizes with the cadherin-catenin system, and nectin-1 and -3 asymmetrically localize at the pre- and postsynaptic sides of puncta adherentia junctions, respectively. During development, nectin-1 and -3 asymmetrically localize not only at puncta adherentia junctions but also at synaptic junctions. Inhibition of the nectin-based adhesion by an inhibitor of nectin-1 in cultured rat hippocampal neurons results in a decrease in synapse size and a concomitant increase in synapse number. These results indicate an important role of the nectin-afadin system in the formation of synapses.

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