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Dev Biol. 2006 Jul 1;295(1):206-18. Epub 2006 May 3.

PCNS: a novel protocadherin required for cranial neural crest migration and somite morphogenesis in Xenopus.

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Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, NICHD, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Protocadherins (Pcdhs), a major subfamily of cadherins, play an important role in specific intercellular interactions in development. These molecules are characterized by their unique extracellular domain (EC) with more than 5 cadherin-like repeats, a transmembrane domain (TM) and a variable cytoplasmic domain. PCNS (Protocadherin in Neural crest and Somites), a novel Pcdh in Xenopus, is initially expressed in the mesoderm during gastrulation, followed by expression in the cranial neural crest (CNC) and somites. PCNS has 65% amino acid identity to Xenopus paraxial protocadherin (PAPC) and 42-49% amino acid identity to Pcdh 8 in human, mouse, and zebrafish genomes. Overexpression of PCNS resulted in gastrulation failure but conferred little if any specific adhesion on ectodermal cells. Loss of function accomplished independently with two non-overlapping antisense morpholino oligonucleotides resulted in failure of CNC migration, leading to severe defects in the craniofacial skeleton. Somites and axial muscles also failed to undergo normal morphogenesis in these embryos. Thus, PCNS has essential functions in these two important developmental processes in Xenopus.

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