During the early phase of Dictyostelium discoideum development, cells undergo chemotactic migration to form tight aggregates. A developmentally regulated surface glycoprotein of Mr 80,000 (gp80) has been implicated in mediating the EDTA-resistant type of cell cohesion at this stage. We have used a monoclonal antibody directed against gp80 to study the topographical distribution of gp80 on the cell surface. Indirect immunofluorescence studies showed that gp80 was primarily localized on the cell surface, with a higher concentration at contact areas. Immunoelectron microscopy was carried out by indirect labeling using protein A-gold, and a nonrandom distribution of gp80 was revealed. In addition to contact regions, gold particles were found preferentially localized on filopodia. Quantitative analysis using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed that approximately 60% more gold particles were localized in contact regions in comparison with the noncontact regions, and the filopodial surfaces had a twofold higher gold density. Both TEM and scanning electron microscopy showed that contact areas were enriched in filopodial structures. Filopodia often appeared to adhere to either smooth surfaces or similar filopodial structures of an adjacent cell. These observations suggest that the formation of stable cell-cell contacts involves at least four sequential steps in which filopodia and gp80 probably play an important role in the initial stages of recognition and cohesion among cells.

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