Editors' ChoiceProtein Modification

Helping NCAM Stay Unattached

STKE  16 Oct 2001:
Vol. 2001, Issue 104, pp. tw379
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2001.104.tw379

Poly-α2,8-sialic acid (PSA) is an oligosaccharide expressed on the cell surface often attached to the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM). The precise role of such modification is not clear, but it is associated with very intriguing roles in development and plasticity of the nervous system and also in the development of certain tumors. Mahal et al. now report that incorporation of N-butanoylmannosamine to form unnatural sialic acids can specifically and reversibly inhibit further modification of NCAM in cultured neurons and other cultured cells. The availability of such an inhibitor promises to enable new understanding of the biological roles of PSA.

L. K. Mahal, N. W. Charter, K. Angata, M. Fukuda, D. E. Koshland Jr., C. R. Bertozzi, A small-molecule modulator of poly-a2,8-sialic acid expression on cultured neurons and tumor cells. Science 294 380-381 (2001). [Abstract] [Full Text]