Sialidase NEU4 hydrolyzes polysialic acids of neural cell adhesion molecules and negatively regulates neurite formation by hippocampal neurons

J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 27;287(18):14816-26. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.324186. Epub 2012 Mar 5.


Modulation of levels of polysialic acid (polySia), a sialic acid polymer, predominantly associated with the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), influences neural functions, including synaptic plasticity, neurite growth, and cell migration. Biosynthesis of polySia depends on two polysialyltransferases ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV in vertebrate. However, the enzyme involved in degradation of polySia in its physiological turnover remains uncertain. In the present study, we identified and characterized a murine sialidase NEU4 that catalytically degrades polySia. Murine NEU4, dominantly expressed in the brain, was found to efficiently hydrolyze oligoSia and polySia chains as substrates in sialidase in vitro assays, and also NCAM-Fc chimera as well as endogenous NCAM in tissue homogenates of postnatal mouse brain as assessed by immunoblotting with anti-polySia antibodies. Degradation of polySia by NEU4 was also evident in neuroblastoma Neuro2a cells that were co-transfected with Neu4 and ST8SiaIV genes. Furthermore, in mouse embryonic hippocampal primary neurons, the endogenously expressed NEU4 was found to decrease during the neuronal differentiation. Interestingly, GFP- or FLAG-tagged NEU4 was partially co-localized with polySia in neurites and significantly suppressed their outgrowth, whereas silencing of NEU4 showed the acceleration together with an increase in polySia expression. These results suggest that NEU4 is involved in regulation of neuronal function by polySia degradation in mammals.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neuraminidase / genetics
  • Neuraminidase / metabolism*
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Sialic Acids / genetics
  • Sialic Acids / metabolism*
  • Sialyltransferases / biosynthesis
  • Sialyltransferases / genetics


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Sialic Acids
  • polysialic acid
  • Sialyltransferases
  • NEU4 protein, human
  • Neu4 protein, mouse
  • Neuraminidase
  • ST8SIA4 protein, human