Synaptic cell adhesion molecule SynCAM 1 is a target for polysialylation in postnatal mouse brain

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 1;107(22):10250-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912103107. Epub 2010 May 17.


Among the large set of cell surface glycan structures, the carbohydrate polymer polysialic acid (polySia) plays an important role in vertebrate brain development and synaptic plasticity. The main carrier of polySia in the nervous system is the neural cell adhesion molecule NCAM. As polySia with chain lengths of more than 40 sialic acid residues was still observed in brain of newborn Ncam(-/-) mice, we performed a glycoproteomics approach to identify the underlying protein scaffolds. Affinity purification of polysialylated molecules from Ncam(-/-) brain followed by peptide mass fingerprinting led to the identification of the synaptic cell adhesion molecule SynCAM 1 as a so far unknown polySia carrier. SynCAM 1 belongs to the Ig superfamily and is a powerful inducer of synapse formation. Importantly, the appearance of polysialylated SynCAM 1 was not restricted to the Ncam(-/-) background but was found to the same extent in perinatal brain of WT mice. PolySia was located on N-glycans of the first Ig domain, which is known to be involved in homo- and heterophilic SynCAM 1 interactions. Both polysialyltransferases, ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV, were able to polysialylate SynCAM 1 in vitro, and polysialylation of SynCAM 1 completely abolished homophilic binding. Analysis of serial sections of perinatal Ncam(-/-) brain revealed that polySia-SynCAM 1 is expressed exclusively by NG2 cells, a multifunctional glia population that can receive glutamatergic input via unique neuron-NG2 cell synapses. Our findings sug-gest that polySia may act as a dynamic modulator of SynCAM 1 functions during integration of NG2 cells into neural networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Immunoglobulins / chemistry*
  • Immunoglobulins / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / deficiency
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Neuroglia / classification
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sialic Acids / metabolism*
  • Sialyltransferases / metabolism


  • Cadm1 protein, mouse
  • Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Sialic Acids
  • polysialic acid
  • CMP-N-acetylneuraminate-poly-alpha-2,8-sialosyl sialyltransferase
  • Sialyltransferases
  • ST8SiaIV protein, mouse