Cell Adhesion Molecules

Adhesion Molecules, CAMs: Cell adhesion relies upon specialized transmembrane adhesion proteins that usually extend from the intracellular space to the extracellular space where they bind ligands in other cell membranes or in the extracellular matrix. Some signaling molecules act as adhesion receptors and cluster in focal adhesions upon ligand binding. adapted from 1, 2.



calcium dependent, or

cation modulated

cadherins, selectins



calcium independent

Ig superfamily


E-selectins: (initial PMN-endothelial adhesion) L-selectins: constitutive trafficking of lymphocytes through secondary lymphoid organs (leukocyte-endothelium, or leukocyte-leukocyte).



constitutive, tightest

Ig superfamily

desmogleins & desmocollins

Ligand type


selectins to carbohydrates

Ig superfamily to integrins, ICAM-1 to selectins

Ig superfamily to different Ig superfamily, systemic IgCAMs

cadherins via catenins to cytoskeleton



Ig superfamily to Ig superfamily (neural IgCAMs)

cadherins to cadherins


actin cytoskeleton

Cadherins N; P; R; B; E

desmosome/tight junction Desmogleins & desmocollins interact with intermediate filaments ( tight junctions).
extracellular ligands


Tissue type

immune system signaling FAS ligand, TNF receptor family, CD28 & B7, CD40, CD31 (platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 [PECAM-1]/endothelial cell adhesion molecule [endoCAM][r])



Cadherins-N, neural IgCAMS


L-selectins leukocytes, E-selectins endothelial cells; P-selectins platelets and endothelial cells.


widely expressed







migration, motility


AMOG - neural migration

CD-31, or PECAM-1

Catenins probably trigger changes in cell shape and motility with signals via Rho small GTPases.

α4β1; α4β7; Fibronectin;VCAM-1; MAdCAM-1; TSP-1: T-cell transendothelial migration

cadherins interact with receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs).

L1 & NCAM (with src PTKs)[1]

CD2, LFA-3 or CD4, CD8.

focal adhesion complex (Paxillin adaptor protein)




desmogleins & desmocollins

tissue integrity (solid)




Calcium dependent adhesion molecules

Structure Single-pass transmembrane glycoprotein ~ 700-750 residues, often dimers. Anchor is cytoplasmic carboxy-terminal domain of transmembrane segment. Intracellular cytoplasmic domain binds intracellular domain binds to specific proteins, catenins, which then bind to actin cytoskeleton. Extracellular domain ~ 100 amino acid residues, calcium binding sites, homophilic binding (CDH-CDH) may use His-Ala-Val sequence, has 5 tandem repeats, each comprising sandwich of β sheets.

Evolutionarily ancient; widely expressed. Almost all vertebrate cells express one or more cadherins. Cadherins N; P; R; B; E are interactive with actin cytoskeleton. Cadherin type: intracellular → cytoplasmic filaments. Cadherins-E,-P: catenins, alpha actinin → actin. Desmosome associated: Desmogleins & Desmocollins interact with intermediate filaments ( tight junctions). Desmosomal: desmoplakins I, II, Plakoglobin, keratin → desmin. N-cadherin: catenins, alpha actinin, vinculin → actin. Protocadherins display homology to cadherins, have extracellular, but not intracellular, domains

Function Cadherin-E (1): reduction correlates with malignancy & tumor invasion. Cadherin-M: Myogenesis Cadherin-N: Role in establishment of left-right asymmetry Cadherin- P (3): Congenital hypotrichosis with juvenile macular dystrophy Cadhein VE: Expression reduced in human angiosarcomas Cadherin 23: Deafness, Age-related & non-syndromic; Usher syndrome Catenin β1 (Cadherin-associated protein): Mutations in malignancies Desmoglein 3: Antibody target in pemphigus

Ig superfamily

Non-Calcium dependent Cell to Cell binding

Structure Transmembrane segment & cytoplasmic tail. Adhesion sites - 1 or more repeats of Ig fold of 60 to 100 amino acids. Ig domain has no somatic hypermutations. Sandwiches of 2 β sheets adherent by hydrophobic interactions. Constitutive or long-term up-regulated
Location/Ligand Evolutionarily ancient; widely expressed. Homophilic: neural specific Ig cell adhesion molecules (IgCAMs). Heterophilic: Systemic IgCAMs Adhesion sites: Ig fold(s) domains (distal); Fibronectin type III (Fn3) domains. Inhibited by sialylation. Ca++ independent. Ligands of neural IgCAMS: Ig superfamily, Axonin, MAG, NCAM-1, opiods, Po, PMP-22 Ligands of systemic IgCAMs: CD6; CD166;NgCAM; 35 kD protein, sialylated glycoproteins, LCA (CD45), Hyaluronin; Ankyrin; Fibronectin; MIP1, βOsteopontin, αLβ2; LFA-1, αLβ2 (LFA-1), αLβ2, LFA-3, LFA-2, α4β7; L-selectin, CD31; αvβ3, α4β1; α4β7
Function Neurite outgrowth, myelination, firm adhesion of leukocytes via LFA/ICAM-1 & VLA-4/VCAM-1


Cell to Matrix Binding & Cell to Cell binding through special Integrins


Heterodimeric transmembrane glycoproteins. 16 α chains & 8 β chains, heterodimers with 1 α chain & 1 β chain, binding site on β subunit, α subunit may mediate specificity of ligand binding Subunits: large (α) 120-170 kDa, small (β) 90-100 kDa.


Binding sites for divalent cations Mg2+ and Ca2+ (necessary for adhesive function). Binding often occurs after weaker, rolling selectin binding. Low affinity binding to extracellular ligands - often single specific IgCAM; ICAM-1; ICAM-2; ICAM-3; VCAM-1; MAdCAM-1; TSP-1; or subset of extracellular matrix molecules (Fibronectin; Laminins). → Intracellular ligands: Talin; α-actinin. Intracellular ligands then linked to structural proteins (Vinculin; Actin microfilaments) and to signaling pathways partly via pp125FAK , a focal adhesion-associated kinase (FAK)

Function Mediate direct cell to cell recognition and interactions, attach cells to extracellular matrix proteins of the basement membrane or to ligands on other cells. Cause receptor clustering, autophosphorylation of tyrosine residues. Loss of integrin interaction may induce apoptosis. β1 integrin required in muscle for innervation by motor axons


Cell to Cell Surface Carbohydrate Binding Proteins : Calcium dependent

Structure Transient, single transmembrane polypeptide (lectins), small cytoplasmic tail, N-terminal is homologous to Ca++-dependent lectins, EGF motif, 62 aa repeats show homology to complement regulatory proteins Heterophilic binding to oligosaccharides on another cell (incl. neutrophils) in presence of calcium.
Location/Ligand L-leukocytes; E-endothelial cells; P-platelets and endothelial cells. Vertebrate blood, vascular, immune, heart, muscle, uterus, nervous system - adhesion glycoproteins bound to sialated glycans - Ca++ dependent adhesion of amino-terminal domain. Rapidly down-regulated
Function Leukocyte-endothelial interactions. E-selectin mediates initial PMN adhesion to endothelial cells. L-selectins -constitutive trafficking of lymphocytes through secondary lymphoid organs. Local chemical mediators at the site of inflammation signal the endothelial cells to express P-selectins, which allow the initial binding of white blood cells to endothelial cells -weak binding, so WBC roll along endothelium until bound more strongly by integrins.
 Cell signaling  Second Messengers  RTKs 

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