Cell-substratum adhesion in the embryonic chicken nervous system has been shown to be mediated in part by a 170,000-mol-wt polypeptide that is a component of adherons. Attachment of retinal cells to the 170,000-mol-wt protein is inhibited by the C1H3 monoclonal antibody and by heparan sulfate (Cole, G. J., D. Schubert, and L. Glaser, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 100:1192-1199). In the present study we have demonstrated that the 170,000-mol-wt C1H3 polypeptide is immunologically identical to the neural cell adhesion molecule N-CAM, and that the 170,000-mol-wt component of N-CAM is preferentially secreted by cells as a component of adherons. We have identified a monoclonal antibody, designated B1A3, that inhibits heparin binding to N-CAM and cell-to-substratum adhesion. A 25,000-mol-wt heparin (heparan sulfate)-binding domain of N-CAM has been identified by limited proteolysis, and this fragment promotes cell attachment when bound to glass surfaces. The fragment also partially inhibits cell binding to adherons when bound to retinal cells, and the B1A3 monoclonal antibody inhibits retinal cell attachment to substrata composed of intact N-CAM or the heparin-binding domain. These data are the first evidence that N-CAM is a multifunctional protein that contains both cell-and heparin (heparan sulfate)-binding domains.

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