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Nat Neurosci. 2005 Apr;8(4):443-50. Epub 2005 Feb 27.

Drosophila N-cadherin mediates an attractive interaction between photoreceptor axons and their targets.

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Department of Neurobiology, 299 W. Campus Drive, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Classical cadherins have been proposed to mediate interactions between pre- and postsynaptic cells that are necessary for synapse formation. We provide the first direct, genetic evidence in favor of this model by examining the role of N-cadherin in controlling the pattern of synaptic connections made by photoreceptor axons in Drosophila. N-cadherin is required in both individual photoreceptors and their target neurons for photoreceptor axon extension. Cell-by-cell reconstruction of wild-type photoreceptor axons extending within mosaic patches of mutant target cells shows that N-cadherin mediates attractive interactions between photoreceptors and their targets. This interaction is not limited to those cells that will become the synaptic partners of photoreceptors. Multiple N-cadherin isoforms are produced, but single isoforms can substitute for endogenous N-cadherin activity. We propose that N-cadherin mediates a homophilic, attractive interaction between photoreceptor growth cones and their targets that precedes synaptic partner choice.

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