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Dev Biol. 2012 Jun 15;366(2):204-17. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

Developmental changes in expression, subcellular distribution, and function of Drosophila N-cadherin, guided by a cell-intrinsic program during neuronal differentiation.

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Structural Biology Center, National Institute of Genetics and Department of Genetics, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Mishima 411-8540, Japan.


Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) perform numerous functions during neural development. An individual CAM can play different roles during each stage of neuronal differentiation; however, little is known about how such functional switching is accomplished. Here we show that Drosophila N-cadherin (CadN) is required at multiple developmental stages within the same neuronal population and that its sub-cellular expression pattern changes between the different stages. During development of mushroom body neurons and motoneurons, CadN is expressed at high levels on growing axons, whereas expression becomes downregulated and restricted to synaptic sites in mature neurons. Phenotypic analysis of CadN mutants reveals that developing axons require CadN for axon guidance and fasciculation, whereas mature neurons for terminal growth and receptor clustering. Furthermore, we demonstrate that CadN downregulation can be achieved in cultured neurons without synaptic contact with other cells. Neuronal silencing experiments using Kir(2.1) indicate that neuronal excitability is also dispensable for CadN downregulation in vivo. Interestingly, downregulation of CadN can be prematurely induced by ectopic expression of a nonselective cation channel, dTRPA1, in developing neurons. Together, we suggest that switching of CadN expression during neuronal differentiation involves regulated cation influx within neurons.

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