Department of Neurobiology
Medical Subject Headings
Immunoglobulins; Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule L1; Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
Neuroscience and Neurobiology
During nervous system development, neuronal cell bodies and their axodendritic projections are precisely positioned through transiently expressed patterning cues. We show here that two neuronally expressed, secreted immunoglobulin (Ig) domain-containing proteins, ZIG-5 and ZIG-8, have no detectable role during embryonic nervous system development of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans but are jointly required for neuronal soma and ventral cord axons to maintain their correct position throughout postembryonic life of the animal. The maintenance defects observed upon removal of zig-5 and zig-8 are similar to those observed upon complete loss of the SAX-7 protein, the C. elegans ortholog of the L1CAM family of adhesion proteins, which have been implicated in several neurological diseases. SAX-7 exists in two isoforms: a canonical, long isoform (SAX-7L) and a more adhesive shorter isoform lacking the first two Ig domains (SAX-7S). Unexpectedly, the normally essential function of ZIG-5 and ZIG-8 in maintaining neuronal soma and axon position is completely suppressed by genetic removal of the long SAX-7L isoform. Overexpression of the short isoform SAX-7S also abrogates the need for ZIG-5 and ZIG-8. Conversely, overexpression of the long isoform disrupts adhesion, irrespective of the presence of the ZIG proteins. These findings suggest an unexpected interdependency of distinct Ig domain proteins, with one isoform of SAX-7, SAX-7L, inhibiting the function of the most adhesive isoform, SAX-7S, and this inhibition being relieved by ZIG-5 and ZIG-8. Apart from extending our understanding of dedicated neuronal maintenance mechanisms, these findings provide novel insights into adhesive and anti-adhesive functions of IgCAM proteins.