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Open Access Research article

The adhesion molecule Necl-3/SynCAM-2 localizes to myelinated axons, binds to oligodendrocytes and promotes cell adhesion

François Pellissier1, Alan Gerber1, Christoph Bauer2, Marc Ballivet1 and Vincent Ossipow1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry, University of Geneva, 30 Quai Ernest Ansermet, Sciences II, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

2 NCCR Frontiers in Genetics, Imaging Platform, University of Geneva, 30 Quai Ernest Ansermet, Sciences II, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

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BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-90

Published: 29 October 2007



Cell adhesion molecules are plasma membrane proteins specialized in cell-cell recognition and adhesion. Two related adhesion molecules, Necl-1 and Necl-2/SynCAM, were recently described and shown to fulfill important functions in the central nervous system. The purpose of the work was to investigate the distribution, and the properties of Necl-3/SynCAM-2, a previously uncharacterized member of the Necl family with which it shares a conserved modular organization and extensive sequence homology.


We show that Necl-3/SynCAM-2 is a plasma membrane protein that accumulates in several tissues, including those of the central and peripheral nervous system. There, Necl-3/SynCAM-2 is expressed in ependymal cells and in myelinated axons, and sits at the interface between the axon shaft and the myelin sheath. Several independent assays demonstrate that Necl-3/SynCAM-2 functionally and selectively interacts with oligodendrocytes. We finally prove that Necl-3/SynCAM-2 is a bona fide adhesion molecule that engages in homo- and heterophilic interactions with the other Necl family members, leading to cell aggregation.


Collectively, our manuscripts and the works on Necl-1 and SynCAM/Necl-2 reveal a complex set of interactions engaged in by the Necl proteins in the nervous system. Our work also support the notion that the family of Necl proteins fulfils key adhesion and recognition functions in the nervous system, in particular between different cell types.