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Brain development needs sugar: The role of polysialic acid in controlling NCAM functions

: Mühlenhoff, M.; Oltmann-Norden, I.; Weinhold, B.; Hildebrandt, H.; Gerardy-Schahn, R.


Biological chemistry 390 (2009), Nr.7, S.567-574
ISSN: 1431-6730
ISSN: 1432-0355
ISSN: 1437-4315
Fraunhofer ITEM ()

Polysialic acid (polySia) is a major regulator of cell-cell interactions in the developing nervous system and a key factor in maintaining neural plasticity. As a polyanionic molecule with high water binding capacity, polySia increases the intercellular space and creates conditions that are permissive for cellular plasticity. While the prevailing model highlights polySia as a non-specific regulator of cell-cell contacts, this review concentrates on recent studies in knockout mice indicating that a crucial function of polySia resides in controlling interactions mediated by its predominant protein carrier, the neural cell adhesion molecule NCAM.