Image_1_Artemin and an Artemin-Derived Peptide, Artefin, Induce Neuronal Survival, and Differentiation Through Ret and NCAM.jpg

Artemin (ARTN) is a neurotrophic factor from the GDNF family ligands (GFLs) that is involved in development of the nervous system and neuronal differentiation and survival. ARTN signals through a complex receptor system consisting of the RET receptor tyrosine kinase and a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored co-receptor GFL receptor α, GFRα3. We found that ARTN binds directly to neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and that ARTN-induced neuritogenesis requires NCAM expression and activation of NCAM-associated signaling partners, thus corroborating that NCAM is an alternative receptor for ARTN. We designed a small peptide, artefin, that could interact with GFRα3 and demonstrated that this peptide agonist induces RET phosphorylation and mimics the biological functions of ARTN – neuroprotection and neurite outgrowth. Moreover, artefin mimicked the binding of ARTN to NCAM and required NCAM expression and activation for its neurite elongation effect, thereby suggesting that artefin represents a binding site for NCAM within ARTN. We showed that biological effects of ARTN and artefin can be inhibited by abrogation of both NCAM and RET, suggesting a more complex signaling mechanism that previously thought. As NCAM plays a significant role in neurodevelopment, regeneration, and synaptic plasticity we suggest that ARTN and its mimetics are promising candidates for treatment of neurological disorders and warrant further investigations.