L1CAM: A major driver for tumor cell invasion and motility


The L1 cell adhesion molecule (L1CAM) plays a major role in the development of the nervous system and in the malignancy of human tumors. In terms of biological function, L1CAM comes along in two different flavors: (1) a static function as a cell adhesion molecule that acts as a glue between cells; (2) a motility promoting function that drives cell migration during neural development and supports metastasis of human cancers. Important factors that contribute to the switch in the functional mode of L1CAM are: (1) the cleavage from the cell surface by membrane proximal proteolysis and (2) the ability to change binding partners and engage in L1CAM-integrin binding. Recent studies have shown that the cleavage of L1CAM by metalloproteinases and the binding of L1CAM to integrins via its RGD-motif in the sixth Ig-domain activate signaling pathways distinct from the ones elicited by homophilic binding. Here we highlight important features of L1CAM proteolysis and the signaling of L1CAM via integrin engagement. The novel insights into L1CAM downstream signaling and its regulation during tumor progression and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) will lead to a better understanding of the dualistic role of L1CAM as a cell adhesion and/or motility promoting cell surface molecule.

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L1CAM: A major driver for tumor cell invasion and motility