It is tacitly understood that cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) are critically important for the development of cells, circuits, and synapses in the brain. What is less clear is what CAMs continue to contribute to brain structure and function after the early period of development. Here, we focus on the cadherin family of CAMs to first briefly recap their multidimensional roles in neural development and then to highlight emerging data showing that with maturity, cadherins become largely dispensible for maintaining neuronal and synaptic structure, instead displaying new and narrower roles at mature synapses where they critically regulate dynamic aspects of synaptic signaling, structural plasticity, and cognitive function. At mature synapses, cadherins are an integral component of multiprotein networks, modifying synaptic signaling, morphology, and plasticity through collaborative interactions with other CAM family members as well as a variety of neurotransmitter receptors, scaffolding proteins, and other effector molecules. Such recognition of the ever-evolving functions of synaptic cadherins may yield insight into the pathophysiology of brain disorders in which cadherins have been implicated and that manifest at different times of life.
Keywords: Cell adhesion molecules; Cognition; LTP; N-Cadherin; Neural development; Protocadherins; Synaptic plasticity.
© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.