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Prog Neurobiol. 2006 Jun;79(2):73-94. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

The ADAMs family: coordinators of nervous system development, plasticity and repair.

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  • 1Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA.


A disintegrin and metalloprotease (ADAM) transmembrane proteins have metalloprotease, integrin-binding, intracellular signaling and cell adhesion activities. In contrast to other metalloproteases, ADAMs are particularly important for cleavage-dependent activation of proteins such as Notch, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGFalpha), and can bind integrins. Not surprisingly, ADAMs have been shown or suggested to play important roles in the development of the nervous system, where they regulate proliferation, migration, differentiation and survival of various cells, as well as axonal growth and myelination. On the eleventh anniversary of the naming of this family of proteins, the relatively unknown ADAMs are emerging as potential therapeutic targets for neural repair. For example, over-expression of ADAM10, one of the alpha-secretases for APP, can prevent amyloid formation and hippocampal defects in an Alzheimer mouse model. Another example of this potential neural repair role is the finding that ADAM21 is uniquely associated with neurogenesis and growing axons of the adult brain. This comprehensive review will discuss the growing literature about the roles of ADAMs in the developing and adult nervous system, and their potential roles in neurological disorders. Most excitingly, the expanding understanding of their normal roles suggests that they can be manipulated to promote neural repair in the degenerating and injured adult nervous system.

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