The classical cadherins are homophilic binding molecules that play fundamental roles in several biological processes, including axonal growth and synaptic plasticity. The structures of the amino-terminal homophilic binding domains of N-cadherin and E-cadherin have been resolved. However, the mechanisms that govern cadherin binding and specificity remain contentious. In the present study we have used a peptide competition approach to probe for small linear determinants of cadherin binding. We demonstrate that a linear peptide mimetic of a short sequence in ECD1 of N-cadherin (INPISGQ) functions as a highly specific and potent antagonist of N-cadherin function with an IC(50) value of approximately 15 microM. Peptide mimetics of the corresponding motif in chick R-cadherin also inhibited N-cadherin function, albeit with lower efficacy. In contrast, peptide mimetics of the corresponding motif in E- or P-cadherin failed to inhibit N-cadherin function. A short cyclic peptide that contained only the INP motif from N-cadherin was also a potent N-cadherin antagonist (IC(50) approximately 15 microM). Analysis of existing crystal structures suggests that the peptides are likely to antagonize N-cadherin function by binding to the region that flanks the HAV motif at the adhesion dimer interface.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.