A synthetic peptide derived from the fibronectin cell-binding domain, GRGDSP, inhibits the adhesion of rat oligodendrocytes to a number of substrates. However, while GRGDSP inhibited the adhesion of cells in a short term adhesion assay, the presence of the peptide did not prevent cells from adhering and thriving in longer term culture. The morphological characteristics of individual cells cultured with 0.1 mg/ml GRGDSP were similar to untreated cultures; small rounded cell bodies radiating numerous fine processes. Peptide-treated cultures were inhibited in their ability to produce myelin specific components. The characteristic developmental peak in sulfolipid synthesis which occurs both in vivo and in vitro was completely inhibited when cells were cultured with GRGDSP. In addition, the synthesis of myelin basic protein was inhibited. Ultrastructurally, cells treated with GRGDSP showed a greatly reduced number of multilamellar myelin-like membrane figures than cells grown without peptide or those grown with GRADSP. Cultured oligodendrocytes did not become sensitive to inhibition of sulfolipid synthesis by GRGDSP until a period immediately preceding the peak in sulfolipid biosynthesis. The effects of pretreatment with peptide for 5 d before this time were completely reversible. Pretreatment which extended into the time of peak myelin synthesis resulted in permanent impairment in the cell's ability to synthesize sulfolipid. The oligodendrocyte's ability to synthesize a myelin-like membrane in culture is, in part, inherent since it occurs in the absence of neurons. The present results indicate that myelin membrane production is also subject to external control since it appears that occupancy of an RGD-dependent cell surface receptor during a critical period of in vitro development is required for the oligodendrocyte to produce myelin-like membrane.

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