Phylogeny of a neural cell adhesion molecule

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Developmental Biology








The phylogeny of adhesion among cells derived from neural tissue has been examined using a combination of functional and immunological analyses. The presence of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) was evaluated with respect to NCAM-specific antigenic determinants attached to a polypeptide chain with appropriate electrophoretic properties. By these criteria, NCAM-like molecules were detected in all embryonic and adult vertebrates tested, and an adult mollusc, but not in an adult insect, crustacean, or nematode. The functional assays measured adhesiveness by simple aggregation of neural membrane vesicles, as well as by NCAM-specific binding between membranes from different species. The presence of the NCAM antigen in vertebrate membranes correlated with binding activity in both the NCAM-specific and general adhesion assays, implying that the adhesiveness of these membranes largely reflects NCAM-mediated binding. The results also indicate that NCAM function has been conserved during the evolution of vertebrates, and supports the possibility that mechanisms of nerve-nerve, nerve-muscle, and nerve-glial interaction, which have been demonstrated previously to involve NCAM, may be similar for many chordates. Whereas NCAM was not detected in adult fly and worm, these species did express NCAM-like antigens transiently during early development. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that NCAM is required during several periods of development, and that the functions of this molecule in nematodes and insects may be distinct from or a subset of those that occur in vertebrates. The expanded role of the molecule represented by its expression during later stages of vertebrate development may thus have been an important contribution to the evolution of chordates. © 1985.

This document is currently not available here.