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J Neurosci. 2004 Oct 13;24(41):9027-34.

In vivo trafficking and targeting of N-cadherin to nascent presynaptic terminals.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5345, USA.


N-cadherin is a prominent component of developing and mature synapses, yet very little is known about its trafficking within neurons. To investigate N-cadherin dynamics in developing axons, we used in vivo two-photon time-lapse microscopy of N-cadherin--green fluorescent protein (Ncad-GFP), which was expressed in Rohon-Beard neurons of the embryonic zebrafish spinal cord. Ncad-GFP was present as either stable accumulations or highly mobile transport packets. The mobile transport packets were of two types: tubulovesicular structures that moved preferentially in the anterograde direction and discrete-punctate structures that exhibited bidirectional movement. Stable puncta of Ncad-GFP accumulated in the wake of the growth cone with a time course. Colocalization of Ncad-GFP puncta with synaptic markers suggests that N-cadherin is a very early component of nascent synapses. Expression of deletion mutants revealed a potential role of the extracellular domain in appropriate N-cadherin trafficking and targeting. These results are the first to characterize the trafficking of a synaptic cell-adhesion molecule in developing axons in vivo. In addition, we have begun to investigate the cell biology of N-cadherin trafficking and targeting in the context of an intact vertebrate embryo.

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