Cadherins in early neural development

Karolina Punovuori, Mattias Malaguti, Sally Lowell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

During early neural development, changes in signalling inform the expression of transcription factors that in turn instruct changes in cell identity. At the same time, switches in adhesion molecule expression result in cellular rearrangements that define the morphology of the emerging neural tube. It is becoming increasingly clear that these two processes influence each other; adhesion molecules do not simply operate downstream of or in parallel with changes in cell identity but rather actively feed into cell fate decisions.

Why are differentiation and adhesion so tightly linked? It is now over 60 years since Conrad Waddington noted the remarkable "Constancy of the Wild Type” [1] yet we still don’t fully understand the mechanisms that make development so reproducible. Conversely, we don't understand why directed differentiation of cells in a dish is sometimes unpredictable and difficult to control. It has long been suggested that cells make decisions as 'local cooperatives' rather than as individuals [2,3]. Given that the cadherin family of adhesion molecules can simultaneously influence morphogenesis and signalling, it is tempting to speculate that they may help coordinate cell fate decisions between neighbouring cells in the embryo to ensure fidelity of patterning, and that the uncoupling of these processes in a culture dish might underlie some of the problems with controlling cell fate decisions ex-vivo.

Here we review the expression and function of cadherins during early neural development and discuss how and why they might modulate signalling and differentiation as neural cells tissues are formed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • adhesion
  • pluripotency
  • neuroectoderm
  • differentiation
  • signalling


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