CD56 (NCAM, neural cell adhesion molecule) is a transmembrane glycoprotein of the immunoglobulin family that serves as an adhesive molecule and is ubiquitously expressed in the nervous system in isoforms ranging from 120-180 kDa. CD56 is found on T cells and NK cells, and is involved in cell migration, axonal growth, pathfinding and synaptic plasticity. Polysialic modification results in reduction of CD56-mediated cell adhesion. Through its extracellular region, CD56 mediates homophilic and heterophilic interactions by binding extracellular matrix components such as laminin and integrins. CD56 is expressed on most neuroectodermal derived cell lines, tissues and neoplasms such as retinoblastoma, medulloblastoma, astrocytomas and neuroblastoma. Further, CD56 is a widely used neuroendocrine marker with a high sensitivity for neuroendocrine tumors and ovarian granulosa cell tumors. Diseases associated with CD56 dysfunction include rabies and blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasms.
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