We studied the development of NCAM and gap junctional communication, and their mutual relationship in chick neuroectoderm in vitro. Expression of NCAM, as detected by monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, and development of junctional communication, as detected by extensive cell-to-cell transfer of 400-500-D fluorescent tracers, occurred in cultures from stage-2 embryos onward. Both expressions presumably required primary induction. The differentiating cells formed discrete fields of expression on the second to third day in culture, with the NCAM fields coinciding with the junctional communication fields delineated by the tracers. Other neural differentiations developed in the following order: tetanus toxin receptors, neurofilament protein, and neurite outgrowth. Chronic treatment with antibody Fab fragments against NCAM interfered with the development of communication, suggesting that NCAM-mediated adhesion promotes formation of cell-to-cell channels. Temperature-sensitive mutant Rous sarcoma virus blocked (reversibly) communication and the subsequent development of neurofilament protein and neurites, but expression of NCAM continued.

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