The cadherin superfamily in neural development: diversity, function and interaction with other molecules

Front Biosci. 2003 Jan 1;8:d306-55. doi: 10.2741/972.


Cell-cell interactions are crucial steps for the development of the highly complex nervous system. A variety of cell-cell adhesion molecules of the cadherin superfamily have been found to be expressed in the developing nervous system. Recently it was proposed classic cadherins are involved in various aspects of neural development such as regionalization, brain nucleus formation, neurite outgrowth, target recognition and synaptogenesis. Classic cadherins preferentially bind to the same cadherin subtype ("homophilic adhesion"), and this binding specificity can provide an "adhesive code" that can account for various aspects of neural morphogenesis. In addition, novel members of the cadherin superfamily are also involved in various steps of neural development. The function of these cadherins molecules is orchestrated in the cellular context by a complex network of signaling pathways such as the small GTPase pathway. Here, we will review the molecular properties of the cadherin superfamily and their coordinated roles in the formation of the nervous system along with the accumulated knowledge in non-neuronal systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*


  • Cadherins