The chick axon-associated surface glycoprotein neurofascin is implicated in axonal growth and fasciculation as revealed by antibody perturbation experiments. Here we report the complete cDNA sequence of neurofascin. It is composed of four structural elements: At the NH2 terminus neurofascin contains six Ig-like motifs of the C2 subcategory followed by four fibronectin type III (FNIII)-related repeats. Between the FNIII-like repeats and the plasma membrane spanning region neurofascin contains a domain 75-amino acid residues-long rich in proline, alanine and threonine which might be the target of extensive O-linked glycosylation. A transmembrane segment is followed by a 113-amino acid residues-long cytoplasmic domain. Sequence comparisons indicate that neurofascin is most closely related to chick Nr-CAM and forms with L1 (Ng-CAM) and Nr-CAM a subgroup within the vertebrate Ig superfamily. Sequencing of several overlapping cDNA probes reveals interesting heterogeneities throughout the neurofascin polypeptide. Genomic Southern blots analyzed with neurofascin cDNA clones suggest that neurofascin is encoded by a single gene and its pre-mRNA might be therefore alternatively spliced. Northern blot analysis with domain specific probes showed that neurofascin mRNAs of about 8.5 kb are expressed throughout development in embryonic brain but not in liver. Isolation of neurofascin by immunoaffinity chromatography results in several molecular mass components. To analyze their origin the amino-terminal sequences of several neurofascin components were determined. The NH2-terminal sequences of the 185, 160, and 110-135 kD components are all the same as the NH2 termini predicted by the cDNA sequence, whereas the other neurofascin components start with a sequence found in a putative alternatively spliced segment between the Ig- and FNIII-like part indicating that they are derived by proteolytic cleavage. A combination of enzymatic and chemical deglycosylation procedures and the analysis of peanut lectin binding reveals O- and N-linked carbohydrates on neurofascin components which might generate additional heterogeneity.

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