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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 5;285(45):34864-74. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.120865. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

N-glycosylation at the SynCAM (synaptic cell adhesion molecule) immunoglobulin interface modulates synaptic adhesion.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Select adhesion molecules connect pre- and postsynaptic membranes and organize developing synapses. The regulation of these trans-synaptic interactions is an important neurobiological question. We have previously shown that the synaptic cell adhesion molecules (SynCAMs) 1 and 2 engage in homo- and heterophilic interactions and bridge the synaptic cleft to induce presynaptic terminals. Here, we demonstrate that site-specific N-glycosylation impacts the structure and function of adhesive SynCAM interactions. Through crystallographic analysis of SynCAM 2, we identified within the adhesive interface of its Ig1 domain an N-glycan on residue Asn(60). Structural modeling of the corresponding SynCAM 1 Ig1 domain indicates that its glycosylation sites Asn(70)/Asn(104) flank the binding interface of this domain. Mass spectrometric and mutational studies confirm and characterize the modification of these three sites. These site-specific N-glycans affect SynCAM adhesion yet act in a differential manner. Although glycosylation of SynCAM 2 at Asn(60) reduces adhesion, N-glycans at Asn(70)/Asn(104) of SynCAM 1 increase its interactions. The modification of SynCAM 1 with sialic acids contributes to the glycan-dependent strengthening of its binding. Functionally, N-glycosylation promotes the trans-synaptic interactions of SynCAM 1 and is required for synapse induction. These results demonstrate that N-glycosylation of SynCAM proteins differentially affects their binding interface and implicate post-translational modification as a mechanism to regulate trans-synaptic adhesion.

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