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J Neurosci Res. 1999 Jan 1;55(1):99-106.

Polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule expression in the dentate gyrus of the human hippocampal formation from infancy to old age.

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Department of Pharmacology, University College, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland.


Modulation of neural cell adhesion molecule polysialylation (NCAM PSA) state has been proposed to underlie morphofunctional change associated with consolidation of memory in the rodent, and its age-dependent decline to be related to impaired cognitive function. To establish whether this may be a human correlate of cognitive decline, we determined the age-dependent expression of PSA in the human hippocampal dentate gyrus using postmortem tissue derived from individuals who exhibited no obvious neuropathology. As in the rodent, PSA immunoreactivity in the 5-month human infant was associated mainly with a population of granule-like cells and their mossy fibre axons. Cell numbers were maximal during the first 3 years of life but declined by an order of magnitude between the second and third decades and remained relatively constant thereafter and was restricted to the granule cell layer/hilar border. In contrast to the rodent, diffuse immunostaining was observed in the inner molecular layer; however, as development advanced, this became relocated to the outer molecular layer from 2 years of age onwards. In addition, numerous polysialylated hilar neurons became evident at 2-3 years of age and remained constant until the eighth decade of life. These findings suggest NCAM polysialylation to play a crucial developmental role within a period concluding with adolescence, and that an attenuated NCAM PSA-mediated neuroplasticity continues throughout the human lifespan. The importance of the developmental phase of NCAM PSA expression in the emergence of schizophrenia is discussed.

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