A microculture system for mouse cerebellar cells has been used to identify an immune activity, raised in rabbits against postnatal cerebellar cells, that blocks neuron-glial interactions in vitro. In the presence of blocking antibodies, stable neuron-glial contacts did not form and neuronal induction of glial process outgrowth did not occur. Subsequently, neurons were randomly arranged in the cultures rather than organized along the arms of astroglia. We have named the immune activity that blocks neuron-astroglial interactions anti-astrotactin. Partial purification of the anti-astrotactin blocking antibodies was obtained by cellular absorption with PC12 cells, a clonal cell line which expresses both the N-CAM and NILE (Ng-CAM, L1) glycoproteins. Subsequent absorption with purified cerebellar granule cells, but not with astroglial cells, removed the blocking activity, suggesting that the antigen(s) bound by blocking antibodies are neuronal. Immunoprecipitation of [35S]methionine- or [3H]fucose-radiolabeled Triton extracts of early postnatal cerebellar cells showed that the unabsorbed antiserum recognized a large number of proteins. Among these were bands with apparent molecular masses of N-CAM (180 and 140 kD) and NILE (230 kD). After absorption of the immune serum with PC12 cells, the number of bands recognized by the antiserum was reduced to a prominent band at 100 kD and a diffuse smear of material between 80 and 90 kD. The prominent band at 100 kD was removed by subsequent absorption of the immune serum with granule cells, a step which removed the blocking activity in the cerebellar microculture assay. Further evidence suggests that the astrotactin activity is missing or defective on granule cells from the neurological mutant mouse weaver, an animal that suffers a failure of glial-guided neuronal migration. When anti-astrotactin Fab fragments were pre-absorbed with weaver cerebellar neurons and then tested in the functional assay of neuron-glial interactions, the immune blocking activity was not removed. In contrast, wild-type cerebellar neurons removed the anti-astrotactin blocking activity under the same conditions. Subsequently, when [3H]fucose-radiolabeled Triton extracts of weaver and normal cells were immunoprecipitated with whole or PC12-absorbed anti-astrotactin antiserum, the intensity of the band at 100 kD was reduced by 95% in weaver cells.

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