A cell surface chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan associated with human melanomas and defined by mAb's F24.47 and 48.7 has been characterized biochemically and localized by indirect immunogold electron microscopy. These antibodies recognize distinct epitopes on the intact proteoglycan. In addition, mAb 48.7 also recognizes an epitope on a 250,000-D glycoprotein and is therefore similar to antibody 9.2.27 (described by Bumol, T.F., and R.A. Reisfeld, 1982, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 79:1245-1249). Furthermore, it was shown that the glycosaminoglycan chains released by alkaline borohydride treatment of the proteoglycan recognized by mAb 48.7 had a size of approximately 60,000 D. Since the intact proteoglycan was estimated to be 420,000 D, there are probably three chondroitin sulfate chains attached to the 250,000-D core glycoprotein. Furthermore, an oligosaccharide fraction containing 42% of the 3H activity (glucosamine as precursor) was isolated. Immunolocalization studies using whole-mount electron microscopy revealed that the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan was present almost exclusively on microspikes, a microdomain of the melanoma cell surface. These processes were present as 1-2-micron structures on the upper cell surface and as longer (up to 20 micron) structures at the cell periphery. Peripheral microspikes were involved in the initial interactions between adjacent cells and formed complex footpads that made contact with the substratum. Immunogold-labeled cells were also thin sectioned and the specific localization of the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan antigen was quantitated. The data confirmed the results of whole-mount microscopy and demonstrated a statistically significant association of the antigen with the microspike processes as compared with other areas of the cell surface. By using two different mAb's (48.7 and F24.47) that recognize epitopes on either the core glycoprotein or the intact proteoglycan, respectively, we have demonstrated that both molecules have the same restricted distribution at the cell surface. The specific localization of the antigen to microspikes at the cell surface suggests it may play a role in cell-cell contact and cell-substratum adhesion, which could be important in the metastatic process.

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