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Second example of ligand-induced cell adhesion discovered

Ligand-induced cell adhesion was discovered at our laboratory as one of the mechanisms underlying the synaptogenic effects of GDNF and its receptor GFRa1 (Ledda et al. Nat. Neurosci. 2007). GDNF treatment of cells expressing GFRa1 induces the formation of cell aggregates in a saturable process that requires continuous presence of GFRa1 on the cell membrane. Due to the presence of GFRa1 in pre- and post-synaptic specializations, and its requirement for synapse formation in vitro and in vivo, this novel cell adhesion activity may contribute to synapse formation and neuronal connectivity. Although the precise molecular mechanism (whether trans-homodimerization, receptor allosterism, or other) is still unclear, it represented the first example of cell adhesion mediated by binding of a ligand to a cell surface receptor which otherwise lacks cell adhesion activity. Now a group of researchers led by Prof. Masayoshi Mishina from the Uiversity of Tokyo have discovered a second example of this phenomenon, suggesting that it may be a general mechanism of cell-cell engagement. The new work involves the synaptogenic actions of GluRd2 and Neurexin receptors in cooperation with the Cerebellin 1 (Cbln1) ligand and has been published in the June 11 issue of Cell.

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