Nerve growth cone migration onto Schwann cells involves the calcium-dependent adhesion molecule, N-cadherin

Dev Biol. 1990 Apr;138(2):430-42. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(90)90209-2.


The role of calcium-dependent adhesion molecules in the migration of nerve growth cones onto the top of Schwann cells was probed by examination of sensory growth cone-Schwann cell interactions in medium containing either 1.0 mM Ca2+ or 0.1 mM Ca2+. In the presence of 1.0 mM Ca2+ growth cones rapidly migrated onto Schwann cells, spread, and remained for extended periods. However, in 0.1 mM Ca2+ growth cones still made frequent contacts with Schwann cells, but migration onto the upper cell surface was much reduced. This contrast in growth cone-Schwann cell interactions could be switched rapidly by changing the Ca2+ concentration of the culture medium. Growth cones of retinal neurons showed similar calcium-dependence in their migration onto Schwann cells. Antibodies to the calcium-dependent adhesion molecule, N-cadherin, also blocked growth cone migration onto Schwann cells, but antibodies to another neuronal adhesion molecule, L1, had no effect on growth cone-Schwann cell interactions. Immunocytochemical staining for N-cadherin and L1 indicated that growth cones and Schwann cells have N-cadherin on their surfaces, while L1 is present only on axons and growth cones. These results provide two kinds of evidence that N-cadherin is important in the initial interactions of growth cones and Schwann cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / drug effects
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Calcium / pharmacology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / immunology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / physiology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Schwann Cells / cytology
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*
  • Video Recording


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Calcium