L1 cell adhesion molecule (L1-CAM) and neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM), key members of the immunoglobulin-like CAM (Ig-CAM) family, were first recognized to play critical roles in surface interactions of neurons, by binding with each other and with extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Subsequently, adhesion was recognized to include signaling due to both activation of β-integrin, with the generation of intracellular cascades, and integration with the surface cytoskeleton. The importance of the two Ig-CAMs was revealed by their activation of the tyrosine kinase receptors of fibroblast growth factor (FGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and nerve growth factor (NGF). Based on these complex signaling properties, L1-CAM and N-CAM have become of great potential pharmacological interest in neurons and cancers. Treatment of neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive deficits of neurons is aimed to increase the cell Ig-CAM tone, possibly provided by synthetic/mimetic peptides. In cancer cells, where Ig-CAMs are often overexpressed, the proteins are employed for prognosis. The approaches to therapy are based on protein downregulation, antibodies, and adoptive immunotherapy.
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