PloS one

Sensory experience differentially modulates the mRNA expression of the polysialyltransferases ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV in postnatal mouse visual cortex.

PMID 21957465


Polysialic acid (PSA) is a unique carbohydrate composed of a linear homopolymer of α-2,8 linked sialic acid, and is mainly attached to the fifth immunoglobulin-like domain of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in vertebrate neural system. In the brain, PSA is exclusively synthesized by the two polysialyltransferases ST8SiaII (also known as STX) and ST8SiaIV (also known as PST). By modulating adhesive property of NCAM, PSA plays a critical role in several neural development processes such as cell migration, neurite outgrowth, axon pathfinding, synaptogenesis and activity-dependent plasticity. The expression of PSA is temporally and spatially regulated during neural development and a tight regulation of PSA expression is essential to its biological function. In mouse visual cortex, PSA is downregulated following eye opening and its decrease allows the maturation of GABAergic synapses and the opening of the critical period for ocular dominance plasticity. Relatively little is known about how PSA levels are regulated by sensory experience and neuronal activity. Here, we demonstrate that while both ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV mRNA levels decrease around the time of eye opening in mouse visual cortex, only ST8SiaII mRNA level reduction is regulated by sensory experience. Using an organotypic culture system from mouse visual cortex, we further show that ST8SiaII gene expression is regulated by spiking activity and NMDA-mediated excitation. Further, we show that both ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV mRNA levels are positively regulated by PKC-mediated signaling. Therefore, sensory experience-dependent ST8SiaII gene expression regulates PSA levels in postnatal visual cortex, thus acting as molecular link between visual activity and PSA expression.