J. Sunshine, K. Balak, U. Rutishauser
Aug 1, 1987
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Changes in carbohydrate and polypeptide form of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) have been documented during the development of central nervous system tissue in both chicken and frog. The carbohydrate variations reflect a high and low content of polysialic acid, and for the two vertebrates examined the expression of these forms is similar. At very early stages of neural development NCAM with a low content of polysialic acid is present, during histogenesis of the central nervous system NCAM with a high content of polysialic acid dominates, and there is a gradual return to NCAM with a low content of polysialic acid as the animals approach maturity. In contrast, the order of expression of the major NCAM polypeptide forms is different in the chicken and frog. These findings suggest that changes in sialic acid are a fundamental aspect of the function of NCAM in development, whereas NCAM polypeptide differences may affect events associated with a particular vertebrate. Studies have demonstrated that a decreased sialic acid content enhances the adhesion properties of NCAM. On this basis, we propose that NCAM with a low content of polysialic acid functions both to maintain integrity of neuroepithelium during morphogenesis of the early embryo and to stabilize differentiated structures in the adult, while the decreased adhesive function of NCAM with a high content of polysialic acid provides more plasticity in cell interactions during cell migration, axon outgrowth, and formation of neural circuits.