Structure and function of primitive immunoglobulin superfamily neural cell adhesion molecules: a lesson from studies on planarian

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Precise wiring and proper remodeling of the neural network are essential for its normal function. The freshwater planarian is an attractive animal in which to study the formation and maintenance of the neural network due to its high regenerative capability and developmental plasticity. Although a recent study revealed that homologs of netrin and its receptors are required for regeneration and maintenance of the planarian central nervous system (CNS), the roles of cell adhesion in the formation and maintenance of the planarian neural network remain poorly understood. In the present study, we found primitive immunoglobulin superfamily cell adhesion molecules (IgCAMs) in a planarian that are homologous to vertebrate neural IgCAMs. We identified planarian orthologs of NCAM, L1CAM, contactin and DSCAM, and designated them DjCAM, DjLCAM, DjCTCAM and DjDSCAM, respectively. We further confirmed that they function as cell adhesion molecules using cell aggregation assays. DjCAM and DjDSCAM were found to be differentially expressed in the CNS. Functional analyses using RNA interference revealed that DjCAM is partly involved in axon formation, and that DjDSCAM plays crucial roles in neuronal cell migration, axon outgrowth, fasciculation and projection.

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