F3/Contactin is an immunoglobulin superfamily component expressed in the nervous tissue of several species. Here we focus on the structural and functional properties of its mouse relative, on the mechanisms driving its regulated expression and on its developmental role. F3/Contactin is differentially expressed in distinct populations of central and peripheral neurons and in some non-neuronal cells. Accordingly, the regulatory region of the underlying gene includes promoter elements undergoing differential activation, associated with an intricate splicing profile, indicating that transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms contribute to its expression. Transgenic models allowed to follow F3/Contactin promoter activation in vivo and to modify F3/Contactin gene expression under a heterologous promoter, which resulted in morphological and functional phenotypes. Besides axonal growth and pathfinding, these concerned earlier events, including precursor proliferation and commitment. This wide role in neural ontogenesis is consistent with the recognized interaction of F3/Contactin with developmental control genes belonging to the Notch pathway
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