Neuromodulin (also called GAP43, G50, F1, pp46), a neural-specific calmodulin binding protein, is a major protein kinase C substrate found in developing and regenerating neurons. Here, we report the immunocytochemical characterization of neuromodulin in cultured 0-2A bipotential glial precursor cells obtained from newborn rat brain. Neuromodulin is also present in oligodendrocytes and type 2 astrocytes (stellate-shaped astrocytes), which are both derived from the bipotential glial 0-2A progenitor cells, but is absent of type 1 astrocytes (flat protoplasmic astrocytes). These results support the hypothesis of a common cell lineage for neurons and bipotential 0-2A progenitor cells and suggest that neuromodulin plays a more general role in plasticity during development of the central nervous system. The expression of neuromodulin in secondary cultures of newborn rat oligodendrocytes and its absence in type 1 astrocytes was confirmed by Northern blot analysis of isolated total RNA from these different types of cells using a cDNA probe for the neuromodulin mRNA and by Western blot analysis of the cell extracts using polyclonal antibodies against neuromodulin. The properties of the neuromodulin protein in cultured oligodendrocytes and neuronal cells have been compared. Although neuromodulin in oligodendrocytes is soluble in 2.5% perchloric acid like the neuronal counterpart it migrates essentially as a single protein spot on two-dimensional gel electrophoresis whereas the neuronal antigen can be resolved into at least three distinct protein spots. To obtain precise alignments of the different neuromodulin spots from these two cell types, oligodendrocyte and neuronal cell extracts were mixed together and run on the same two-dimensional gel electrophoresis system. Oligodendroglial neuromodulin migrates with a pI identical to the basic forms of the neuronal protein in isoelectric focusing gel. However, the glial neuromodulin shows a slightly lower mobility in the second dimensional lithium dodecyl sulfate-PAGE than its neuronal counterpart. As measured by 32Pi incorporation, neuromodulin phosphorylation in oligodendrocytes is dramatically increased after short-term phorbol ester treatments, which activate protein kinase C, and is totally inhibited by long-term phorbol ester treatments, which downregulates protein kinase C, thus confirming its probable specific in vivo phosphorylation by protein kinase C. In primary cultures of neuronal cells, two of the three neuromodulin spots were observed to be phosphorylated with an apparent preferential phosphorylation of the more acid forms.

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