Cytotactin is an extracellular matrix glycoprotein with a restricted distribution during development. In electron microscopic images, it appears as a hexabrachion with six arms extending from a central core. Cytotactin binds to other extracellular matrix proteins including a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CTB proteoglycan) and fibronectin. Although cytotactin binds to a variety of cells including fibroblasts and neurons, in some cases it causes cells in culture to round up and it inhibits their migration. To relate these various effects of cytotactin on cell behavior to its binding regions, we have examined its ability to support cell-substrate adhesion and have mapped its cell-binding function onto its structure. In a cell-substrate adhesion assay, fibroblasts bound to cytotactin but remained round. In contrast, they both attached and spread on fibronectin. Neither neurons nor glia bound to cytotactin in this assay. In an assay in which cell-substrate contact was initiated by centrifugation, however, neurons and glia bound well to cytotactin; this binding was blocked by specific anti-cytotactin antibodies. The results suggest that neurons and glia can bind to cytotactin-coated substrates and that these cells, like fibroblasts, possess cell surface ligands for cytotactin. After applying methods of limited proteolysis and fractionation, these assays were used to map the binding functions of cytotactin onto its structure. Fragments produced by limited proteolysis were fractionated into two major pools: one (fraction I) contained disulfide-linked oligomers of a 100-kD fragment and two minor related fragments, and the second (fraction II) contained monomeric 90- and 65-kD fragments. The 90- and 65-kD fragments in fraction II were closely related to each other and were structurally and immunologically distinct from the fragments in fraction I. Only components in fraction I were recognized by mAb M1, which binds to an epitope located in the proximal portion of the arms of the hexabrachion and by a polyclonal antibody prepared against a 75-kD CNBr fragment of intact cytotactin. A mAb (1D8) and a polyclonal antibody prepared against a 35-kD CNBr fragment of cytotactin only recognized components present in fraction II. In cell-binding experiments, fibroblasts, neurons, and glia each adhered to substrates coated with fraction II, but did not adhere to substrates coated with fraction I. Fab fragments of the antibody to the 35-kD CNBr fragment strongly inhibited the binding of cells to cytotactin, supporting the conclusion that fraction II contains a cell-binding region. In addition, Fab fragments of this antibody inhibited the binding of cytotactin to CTB pr

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