The signaling mechanisms underlying neurite growth induced by cadherins and integrins are incompletely understood. In our experiments, we have examined these mechanisms using purified N-cadherin and laminin (LN). We find that unlike the neurite growth induced by fibroblastic cells expressing transfected N-cadherin (Doherty, P., and F.S. Walsh. 1992. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 2:595-601), growth induced by purified N-cadherin in chick ciliary ganglion (CG), sensory, or forebrain neurons is not sensitive to inhibition by pertussis toxin. Using fura-2 imaging of single cells, we show that soluble N-cadherin induces Ca2+ increases in CG neuron cell bodies, and, importantly, in growth cones. In contrast, N-cadherin can induce Ca2+ decreases in glial cells. N-cadherin-induced neuronal Ca2+ responses are sensitive to Ni2+, but are relatively insensitive to diltiazem and omega-conotoxin. Similarly, neurite growth induced by purified N-cadherin is inhibited by Ni2+, but is unaffected by diltiazem and conotoxin. Soluble LN also induced small Ca2+ responses in CG neurons. LN-induced neurite growth, like that induced by N-cadherin, is insensitive to diltiazem and conotoxin, but is highly sensitive to Ni2+ inhibition. K+ depolarization experiments suggest that voltage-dependent Ca2+ influx pathways in CG neurons (cell bodies and growth cones) are largely blocked by the combination of diltiazem and Ni2+. Our results demonstrate that cadherin signaling involves cell type-specific Ca2+ changes in responding cells, and in particular, that N-cadherin can cause Ca2+ increases in neuronal growth cones. Our findings are consistent with the current idea that distinct neuronal transduction pathways exist for cell adhesion molecules compared with integrins, but suggest that the involvement of Ca2+ signals in both of these pathways is more complex than previously appreciated.

This content is only available as a PDF.