Edward B. Little

The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, United States

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Publications (3)14.01 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Homophilic binding of the neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) mediates the calcium-independent cell-cell adhesion that is involved in neuronal development. Two hypotheses have been advanced for the mechanism of homophilic binding. Cell-based experiments have implicated each of the five extracellular immunoglobulin (Ig) domains of N-CAM in the homophilic adhesion interaction, and have predicted that the third domain (Ig III) self-associates. The alternative hypothesis is based on solution observations, which implicate a specific antiparallel interaction between the first two Ig domains (Ig I and Ig II). In order to test these hypotheses, we have determined a high-resolution solution structure of recombinant Ig III (sequence derived from chicken N-CAM) and examined the aggregation behavior of isolated Ig domains in solution. The structure shows that Ig III adopts a canonical Ig fold, in which the beta strands ABED and A'GFCC' form two beta sheets that are linked by a disulfide bond. In contrast to the demonstrated aggregation of Ig III on solid supports, we were unable to demonstrate self-association of Ig III under any of a variety of solution conditions. The structure shows that the surface of Ig III is dominated by two large acidic patches, which may explain our failure to observe self-association in solution. To evaluate the involvement of the Ig I-Ig II interaction in cell-cell adhesion, we designed a point mutation in Ig I (F19S) that proved sufficient to abrogate the Ig I-Ig II interaction seen in solution. However, the introduction of this mutation into full-length N-CAM expressed in COS-7 cells failed to affect N-CAM-mediated cell-cell adhesion. The inability to observe Ig III self-association in solution, combined with the failure of the F19S mutation to affect N-CAM-mediated cell-cell adhesion, suggests that, although solution studies can give important insights into the structures of individual domains, the interactions observed in solution between the domains may not be representative of the interactions that occur on the cell surface.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2001 · Journal of Molecular Biology
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    ABSTRACT: The neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) is expressed on the surface of astrocytes, where its homophilic binding leads to the activation of the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Transfection of astrocytes with a construct encompassing the transmembrane region and the cytoplasmic domain of N-CAM (designated Tm-Cyto, amino acids 685-839 in the full-length molecule) inhibited this activation up to 40%, and inhibited N-CAM-induced translocation of NF-kappaB to the nucleus. N-CAM also activated NF-kappaB in astrocytes from N-CAM knockout mice, presumably through binding to a heterophile. This activation, however, was not blocked by Tm-Cyto expression, indicating that the inhibitory effect of the Tm-Cyto construct is specific for cell surface N-CAM. Deletions and point mutations of the cytoplasmic portion of the Tm-Cyto construct indicated that the region between amino acids 780 and 800 were essential for inhibitory activity. This region contains four threonines (788, 793, 794, and 797). Mutation to alanine of T788, T794, or T797, but not T793, abolished inhibitory activity, as did mutation of T788 or T797 to aspartic acid. A Tm-Cyto construct with T794 mutated to aspartic acid retained inhibitory activity but did not itself induce a constitutive NF-kappaB response. This result suggests that phosphorylation of T794 may be necessary but is not the triggering event. Overall, these findings define a short segment of the N-CAM cytoplasmic domain that is critical for N-CAM-induced activation of NF-kappaB and may be important in other N-CAM-mediated signaling.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2001 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Edward B. Little · Gerald M. Edelman · Bruce A. Cunningham
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    ABSTRACT: The neural cell adhesion molecule N-CAM is expressed at key sites during embryonic development and mediates homophilic adhesion between cells both in the embryo and in the adult. N-CAM is expressed in multiple forms and two of the major isoforms differ in their cytoplasmic domains, one (ld form) having an insert of 261 amino acids that is missing in the other (sd form). N-CAM has been previously shown to be palmitoylated, but the sites of acylation have not been localized. We show here that the cytoplasmic domain of the N-CAM became palmitoylated after transfection of a cDNA encoding N-CAM into COS-7 cells, and that this acylation occurs on the four closely spaced cysteines in the cytoplasmic domain of N-CAM. Moreover, when a cDNA encoding only the cytoplasmic domain was transfected into cells, the protein was palmitoylated and associated with membranes even though it lacked a membrane spanning segment. Site directed mutagenesis of the four cysteine residues to serines at positions 5, 11, 16, and 22 in the cytoplasmic domain (723, 729, 734, and 740 in the native protein) eliminated both the palmitoylation and association with the membrane fraction. Mutagenesis of the cysteines individually, in pairs, and in groups of three indicated that C5 is not acylated with either palmitate or oleate, but the other three cysteines are acylated to different extents. Cytoplasmic domains with single cysteine mutations localized primarily in the membrane fraction, while those with three mutations were found primarily in the cytoplasm. Proteins containing two mutated cysteines were found in both the cytoplasm and the membrane fraction with C11 and C16 having the most influence on the distribution in accord with their higher level of acylation. Mutation of the cysteines did not affect the ability of full-length N-CAM to promote aggregation when transfected into COS-7 cells. Based on these results we suggest that the primary role of palmitoylation is to provide a second anchor in the plasma membrane to direct the protein to discrete membrane microdomains or to organize the cytoplasmic region for interaction with factors that affect signaling events resulting from N-CAM mediated adhesion.
    No preview · Article · Feb 1998 · Cell adhesion and communication