The physiological role of the amyloid precursor protein as an adhesion molecule in the developing nervous system

J Neurochem. 2017 Oct;143(1):11-29. doi: 10.1111/jnc.14122. Epub 2017 Aug 15.


The amyloid precursor protein (APP) is a type I transmembrane glycoprotein better known for its participation in the physiopathology of Alzheimer disease as the source of the beta amyloid fragment. However, the physiological functions of the full length protein and its proteolytic fragments have remained elusive. APP was first described as a cell-surface receptor; nevertheless, increasing evidence highlighted APP as a cell adhesion molecule. In this review, we will focus on the current knowledge of the physiological role of APP as a cell adhesion molecule and its involvement in key events of neuronal development, such as migration, neurite outgrowth, growth cone pathfinding, and synaptogenesis. Finally, since APP is over-expressed in Down syndrome individuals because of the extra copy of chromosome 21, in the last section of the review, we discuss the potential contribution of APP to the neuronal and synaptic defects described in this genetic condition. Read the Editorial Highlight for this article on page 9. Cover Image for this issue: doi. 10.1111/jnc.13817.

Keywords: APP; adhesion molecule; connectopathy; neurodegeneration; neurodevelopment; plasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / chemistry
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / chemistry
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / physiology*
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Down Syndrome / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules