We show that the loss or inactivation of the polysialic acid (PSA) tail of neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) on rat cortical neurons in culture leads to reduced differentiation and survival. The mechanism by which this negative effect is mediated appears to involve the neuronal response to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): (i) in the absence of PSA or in the presence of excess free PSA added to the culture medium, BDNF-induced cell signalling is reduced; (ii) the addition of exogenous BDNF to the medium reverses the effect of PSA loss or inactivation. These data suggest that PSA-NCAM, previously shown to modulate cell migration and plasticity, is needed for an adequate sensitivity of neurons to BDNF.
- Neuronal survival
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