Work from several laboratories has identified a proteoglycan complex secreted by a variety of non-neuronal cells that can promote neurite regeneration when applied to the surface of culture dishes. Using a novel immunization protocol, a monoclonal antibody (INO) was produced that blocks the activity of this outgrowth-promoting factor (Matthew, W. D., and P. H. Patterson, 1983, Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. 48:625-631). We have used the antibody to analyze the components of the active site and to localize the complex in vivo. INO binding is lost when the complex is dissociated; if its components are selectively reassociated, INO binds only to a complex containing two different molecular weight species. These are likely to be laminin and heparan sulfate proteoglycan, respectively. On frozen sections of adult rat tissues, INO binding is present on the surfaces of glial cells of the peripheral, but not the central, nervous system. INO also binds to the basement membrane surrounding cardiac and skeletal muscle cells, and binding to the latter greatly increases after denervation. In the adrenal gland and kidney, INO selectively reacts with areas rich in basement membranes, staining a subset of structures that are immunoreactive for both laminin and heparan sulfate proteoglycan. In general, the outgrowth-blocking antibody binds to areas known to promote axonal regeneration and is absent from areas known to lack this ability. This suggests that this complex, which is active in culture, may be the physiological substrate supporting nerve regeneration in vivo.

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