L1 is a member of the Ig superfamily of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) that functions in many aspects of neuronal development including axonal outgrowth and neuronal migration. These functions require coordination between L1 and the actin cytoskeleton. Because CAMs and the cytoskeleton do not bind directly, membrane-cytoskeletal linkers (MCLs) such as ankyrin are thought to be crucial to their interactions, but data from a knockout mouse suggest that ankyrin is not necessary for the earliest events attributed to L1 function. Recent findings in hippocampal cell culture show that members of the ERM family of proteins (ezrin, radixin, and moesin) can also serve as MCLs between L1 and actin in neurons. Here, we demonstrate that ERM proteins are expressed in extending neuronal processes in the intermediate zone of the developing cortex, a region that is densely packed with migrating neurons and growing axons: ERMs and L1 are codistributed extensively over a transient time course that coincides with rapid axon growth and cortical expansion. This codistribution is strong at embryonic day 17 and 19 but diminishes by postnatal day 0, at which time ankyrin-L1 codistribution increases dramatically. These findings suggest that in the developing neocortex, ERMs are the predominant MCL for L1 during migration and axon extension, neither of which requires ankyrin function. Furthermore, these data suggest that there is a developmentally regulated switch in MCL function in the developing brain.
- Cell adhesion molecule
- Neuronal migration