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Mol Neurobiol. 2006 Jun;33(3):237-52.

N-cadherin signaling in synapse formation and neuronal physiology.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA.


Neural cadherin (N-cadherin) is an adhesion receptor that is localized in abundance at neuronto- neuron synapses. N-cadherin contains an extracellular domain that binds to other cadherins on juxtaposed cell membranes, a single-pass transmembrane region, and a cytoplasmic tail that interacts with various proteins, including catenins, kinases, phosphatases, and presenilin 1. N-cadherin contributes to the structural and functional organization of the synaptic complex by ensuring the adhesion between synaptic membranes and organizing the underlying actin cytoskeleton. Additionally, recent findings have shown that N-cadherin may participate in synaptic physiology by regulating calcium influx through voltage-activated calcium currents. The diverse activities of N-cadherin stem from its ability to operate as both an adhesion molecule that links cytoskeletons across cell membranes and a ligand-activated homophilic receptor capable of initiating intracellular signaling. An important mechanism of cadherin signaling is the regulation of small Rho guanosine triphosphatase activity that affects cytoskeleton dynamics and calcium influx. Because both the regulation of cadherin adhesive activity and cadherin-mediated signaling are affected by the binding of molecules to the intracellular domain, changes in the composition of the N-cadherin complex are central to the regulation of cadherin-mediated functions. This article focuses on the roles that N-cadherin might play at the level of the synapse through its effect on adhesion and signaling in the proximity of the synaptic junction.

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