AKT Activation by N-cadherin Regulates Beta-Catenin Signaling and Neuronal Differentiation During Cortical Development

Neural Dev. 2013 Apr 25;8:7. doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-8-7.


Background: During cerebral cortical development, neural precursor-precursor interactions in the ventricular zone neurogenic niche coordinate signaling pathways that regulate proliferation and differentiation. Previous studies with shRNA knockdown approaches indicated that N-cadherin adhesion between cortical precursors regulates β-catenin signaling, but the underlying mechanisms remained poorly understood.

Results: Here, with conditional knockout approaches, we find further supporting evidence that N-cadherin maintains β-catenin signaling during cortical development. Using shRNA to N-cadherin and dominant negative N-cadherin overexpression in cell culture, we find that N-cadherin regulates Wnt-stimulated β-catenin signaling in a cell-autonomous fashion. Knockdown or inhibition of N-cadherin with function-blocking antibodies leads to reduced activation of the Wnt co-receptor LRP6. We also find that N-cadherin regulates β-catenin via AKT, as reduction of N-cadherin causes decreased AKT activation and reduced phosphorylation of AKT targets GSK3β and β-catenin. Inhibition of AKT signaling in neural precursors in vivo leads to reduced β-catenin-dependent transcriptional activation, increased migration from the ventricular zone, premature neuronal differentiation, and increased apoptotic cell death.

Conclusions: These results show that N-cadherin regulates β-catenin signaling through both Wnt and AKT, and suggest a previously unrecognized role for AKT in neuronal differentiation and cell survival during cortical development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation* / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction* / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Cadherins
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Gsk3b protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3