The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and its polysialylated form PSA-NCAM contribute to many aspects of the development and plasticity of the central nervous system. This includes mechanisms of cell differentiation and migration, neurite outgrowth, establishment of specific patterns of synaptic connections, synaptic plasticity and long-term potentiation. How NCAM and PSA-NCAM contribute to regulate all these different mechanisms remains essentially unknown. Adhesive properties appear to be important, but recent studies also point to possible interactions between NCAM and PSA-NCAM with intracellular signalling cascades that are essential to biological functions. Some of these mechanisms are discussed and a hypothesis is proposed based on the existence of cross-talk between these molecules and signalling pathways mediated by growth factors.
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