The neural cell adhesion molecule, NCAM, is a member of the immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily and is involved in a variety of cellular processes of importance for the formation and maintenance of the nervous system. The role of NCAM in neural differentiation and synaptic plasticity is presumed to depend on the modulation of intracellular signal transduction cascades. NCAM based signaling complexes can initiate downstream intracellular signals by at least two mechanisms: (1) activation of FGFR and (2) formation of intracellular signaling complexes by direct interaction with cytoplasmic interaction partners such as Fyn and FAK. Tyrosine kinases Fyn and FAK interact with NCAM and undergo phosphorylation and this transiently activates the MAPK, ERK 1 and 2, cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) and transcription factors ELK and NFkB. CREB activates transcription of genes which are important for axonal growth, survival, and synaptic plasticity in neurons.
NCAM1 mediated intracellular signal transduction is represented in the figure below. The Ig domains in NCAM1 are represented in orange ovals and Fn domains in green squares. The tyrosine residues susceptible to phosphorylation are represented in red circles and their positions are numbered. Phosphorylation is represented by red arrows and dephosphorylation by yellow. Ig, Immunoglobulin domain; Fn, Fibronectin domain; Fyn, Proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase Fyn; FAK, focal adhesion kinase; RPTPalpha, Receptor-type tyrosine-protein phosphatase; Grb2, Growth factor receptor-bound protein 2; SOS, Son of sevenless homolog; Raf, RAF proto-oncogene serine/threonine-protein kinase; MEK, MAPK and ERK kinase; ERK, Extracellular signal-regulated kinase; MSK1, Mitogen and stress activated protein kinase 1; CREB, Cyclic AMP-responsive element-binding protein; CRE, cAMP response elements.