The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) plays an important role in brain plasticity. Using mice deficient in all isoforms of NCAM we have previously demonstrated that constitutive deficiency in the NCAM gene (NCAM-/-) resulted in cognitive impairment, anhedonic behaviour and a reduced ability to cope with stress. This was accompanied by reduced basal phosphorylation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) and reduced phosphorylation of calcium-calmodulin kinase (CaMK) II and IV and cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). The present study was aimed to investigate how partial deficiency in NCAM in mice (NCAM+/-) affected phenotype. We found that NCAM+/- mice showed a longer period of immobility in the tail suspension test, increased latency to feed in the novelty-suppressed feeding test and reduced preference for sucrose in sucrose preference test. Both NCAM+/- and NCAM-/- mice showed reduced extinction of contextual fear. In contrast to NCAM-/- mice, NCAM+/- mice did not demonstrate memory impairment in either object recognition or contextual fear conditioning tests. Levels of phosphorylated FGFR1 in the hippocampus and prefrontal/frontal cortex of NCAM+/- mice were partially reduced and no changes in the phosphorylation of CaMKII, CaMKIV or CREB in the hippocampus were found. We conclude that a constitutive partial reduction in NCAM proteins results in a behavioural phenotype related to depression without impairment in cognitive functions, also affecting the level of FGFR1 phosphorylation without major alterations in CaMKII and CaMKIV intracellular signalling. Partial reduction in FGFR1 phosphorylation might explain the observed behavioural phenotype in NCAM+/- mice.
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