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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1996 Nov 22;97(1):9-15.

N-cadherin expression and function in cultured oligodendrocytes.

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Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4975, USA.


N-Cadherin is a major cell adhesion molecule that is expressed in the developing nervous system where it has been implicated in neural migration and axon growth. Recently, a role for N-cadherin in oligodendrocyte differentiation has been identified [23]. Oligodendrocyte precursors adhere to N-cadherin and mature rapidly to produce myelin sheets. Since this implies that oligodendrocytes express N-cadherin, we examined the expression of N-cadherin by oligodendrocytes in culture. N-Cadherin was expressed by O-2A progenitors, immature oligodendrocytes and mature oligodendrocytes, but at a lower level than in type 1 astrocytes in the same cultures. On mature oligodendrocytes, the N-cadherin was concentrated on the major processes emerging from the soma. The ability of N-cadherin and merosin to promote oligodendrocyte precursor migration was also studied. Average migration rates were significantly higher on merosin (11.2 microns/h) than on N-cadherin (5.6 microns/h). These results suggest that N-cadherin is not likely to function predominantly as a substrate that stimulates migration of O-2A progenitors, but may be more important in initiating early oligodendrocyte-axon interactions that promote the process of myelination.

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