Dictyostelium discoideum expresses a developmentally regulated cell surface glycoprotein of Mr 80,000 (gp80), which has been implicated in the formation of the EDTA-resistant contact sites A at the cell aggregation stage. To determine whether gp80 participates directly in cell binding and, if so, its mode of action, we conjugated purified gp80 to Covaspheres (Covalent Technology Corp., Ann Arbor, MI) and investigated their ability to bind to cells. The binding of gp80-Covaspheres was dependent on the developmental stage of the cells, with maximal interaction at the late aggregation stage. Scanning electron microscopic studies revealed the clustering of gp80-Covaspheres at the polar ends of these cells, similar to the pattern of gp80 distribution on the cell surface as reported earlier (Choi, A. H. C., and Siu, C.-H., 1987, J. Cell Biol., 104:1375-1387). Precoating cells with an adhesion-blocking anti-gp80 monoclonal antibody inhibited the binding of gp80-Covaspheres, suggesting that Covasphere-associated gp80 might undergo homophilic interaction with gp80 on the cell surface. Quantitative binding of 125I-labeled gp80 to intact cells gave an estimate of 1.5 X 10(5) binding sites per cell at the aggregation stage. Binding of soluble gp80 to cells was blocked by precoating cells with the anti-gp80 monoclonal antibody. The ability of gp80 to undergo homophilic interaction was further tested in a filter-binding assay, which showed that 125I-labeled gp80 was able to interact with gp80 bound on nitrocellulose in a dosage-dependent manner. In addition, reassociation of cells was significantly inhibited in the presence of soluble gp80, suggesting that gp80 has a single cell-binding site. These results are consistent with the notion that gp80 mediates cell-cell binding at the aggregation stage of development via homophilic interaction.

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