mAb DSS-8 binds to a 164-kD developmental stage-specific cell surface antigen in the nervous system of the cockroach, Periplaneta americana. The antigen is localized to different subsets of cells at various stages of development. The spatial and temporal distributions of DSS-8 binding were determined and are consistent with this antigen playing multiple roles in the development of the nervous system. Direct identification of some of these functions was made by perturbation experiments in which pioneer axon growth occurs in embryos that are cultured in vitro in the presence of mAb DSS-8 or its Fab fragment. Under these conditions the pioneer axons of the median fiber tract grow but follow altered pathways. In a smaller percentage of the ganglia, the immunoreagents additionally produce defasciculation of a subset of DSS-8 labeled axons. Therefore, direct roles for the DSS-8 antigen in both the guidance of pioneer axons and selective fasciculation have been demonstrated.

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