Development of the mammalian nervous system is regulated by neural impulse activity, but the molecular mechanisms are not well understood. If cell recognition molecules [for example, L1 and the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM)] were influenced by specific patterns of impulse activity, cell-cell interactions controlling nervous system structure could be regulated by nervous system function at critical stages of development. Low-frequency electrical pulses delivered to mouse sensory neurons in culture (0.1 hertz for 5 days) down-regulated expression of L1 messenger RNA and protein (but not NCAM). Fasciculation of neurites, adhesion of neuroblastoma cells, and the number of Schwann cells on neurites was reduced after 0.1-hertz stimulation, but higher frequencies or stimulation after synaptogenesis were without effect.
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