A 20,000-D protein called purpurin has recently been isolated from the growth-conditioned medium of cultured embryonic chick neural retina cells (Schubert, D., and M. LaCorbiere, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 101:1071-1077). Purpurin is a constituent of adherons and promotes cell-adheron adhesion by interacting with a cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan. It also prolongs the survival of cultured neural retina cells. This paper shows that purpurin is a secretory protein that has sequence homology with a human protein synthesized in the liver that transports retinol in the blood, the serum retinol-binding protein (RBP). Purpurin binds [3H]retinol, and both purpurin and chick serum RBP stimulate the adhesion of neural retina cells, although the serum protein is less active than purpurin. Purpurin and the serum RBP are, however, different molecules, for the serum protein is approximately 3,000 D larger than purpurin and has different silver-staining characteristics. Finally, purpurin supports the survival of dissociated ciliary ganglion cells, indicating that RBPs can act as ciliary neurotrophic factors.

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