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Nature. 1995 Feb 23;373(6516):715-8.

Molecular characterization of eukaryotic polysialyltransferase-1.

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Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany.


Polysialic acid (PSA) is a dynamically regulated product of post-translational modification of the neural cell adhesion molecule, NCAM. Presence of the large anionic carbohydrate modulates NCAM binding properties and, by increasing the intercellular space, influences interactions between other cell surface molecules. PSA expression underlies cell type- and developmental-specific alterations and correlates with stages of cellular motility. In the adult, PSA becomes restricted to regions of permanent neural plasticity and regenerating neural and muscle tissues. Recent data implicate its important function in spatial learning and memory, and in tumour biology. Here we describe the molecular characterization of polysialyltransferase-1, the key enzyme of eukaryotic PSA synthesis. In reconstitution experiments, the newly cloned enzyme induces PSA synthesis in all NCAM-expressing cell lines. Our data therefore represent convincing evidence that the polycondensation of alpha-2,8-linked sialic acids in mammals is the result of a single enzymatic activity and provide a new basis for studying the functional role of PSA in neuro- and tumour biology.

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