Neural cell adhesion molecules and synapse regulation

M. Schachner, I. Leshchyns'ka, V. Sytnyk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Cell adhesion molecules are important players at different stages of synapse formation, maintenance, and modulation of function. Among them, the neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) promotes synapse formation, regulates synaptic strength, and contributes to memory formation and consolidation. Recent findings indicate that these effects are achieved by several mechanisms activated via N-CAM that is accumulated in postsynaptic densities in an activity-dependent manner. These include stabilization of synapses via homo- and heterophilic interactions of N-CAMs in the synaptic cleft, recruitment to and stabilization in synapses of the proteins and intracellular organelles associated with N-CAMs, and modulation of their postsynaptic activity via N-CAM-mediated modulation of kinases and phosphatases. Genetic variations in the N-CAM gene correlate with bipolar affective disorder in humans. Secreted extracellular cleavage products of N-CAMs accumulate in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and may thus interfere with homophilic or heterophilic interactions of N-CAMs. Since such dysfunctions are likely to relate to synaptic abnormalities, these findings lend further support to the notion that the N-CAM is an important player in the assembly and function of a unique invention: the synapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Neuroscience
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780080450469
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Adhesion
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Glutamate receptors
  • Ion channels
  • Kinases
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • N-CAM
  • Phosphatases
  • Postsynaptic density
  • Schizophrenia
  • Synapse
  • Transcription


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