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Front Biosci. 2003 May 1;8:d900-11.

Cellular signalling mechanisms of neural cell adhesion molecules.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry Biophysics, 505 Mary Ellen Jones Bldg, CB#7260, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7260, USA.


Neural cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily are multidomain proteins involved in important cellular events pertinent to development and adult neurological function. This review attempts to give a concise overview of the complex intracellular signaling pathways enabling neural cell adhesion molecules NCAM and L1 to regulate axon growth, guidance, and synaptic plasticity. Recent research findings suggest that these molecules signal in part through integrins leading to cytoskeletal rearrangements locally in the growth cone or cell leading edge, and to MAP kinase, which has the potential to cause gene expression changes in the nucleus. Abnormal expression of NCAM on human chromosome 11q23 has been linked to schizophrenia in humans, a multigenic disease believed to be of neurodevelopmental origin. L1 at Xq28 is the target for mutation in a complex mental retardation disorder termed the L1 syndrome (also sometimes referred to as CRASH syndrome). Thus a full understanding of the mechanism of NCAM and L1 function will contribute to understanding both normal brain development and pathologies associated with cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia and mental retardation.

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