P30 is a heparin-binding protein with adhesive and neurite outgrowth-promoting properties present at high levels in the developing rat central nervous system (Rauvala, H., and R. Pihlaskari. 1987 J. Biol. Chem. 262:16625-16635). Partial sequencing of p30 has revealed homology or identity with HMG-1 (Rauvala, H., J. Merenmies, R. Pihlaskari, M. Korkolainen, M.-L. Huhtala, and P. Panula. 1988. J. Cell Biol. 107:2292-2305), a 28-kD protein that was originally purified from the thymus (Goodwin, G.H., C. Sanders, and E. W. Johns. 1973. Eur. J. Biochem. 38:14-19) which binds DNA in vitro. We have analyzed the distribution of p30 in the developing rat peripheral nervous system (PNS). P30 was detected by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis using antibodies raised against intact p30 and against a synthetic peptide corresponding to the amino terminus of the p30 molecule. P30 was localized to nonnuclear compartments of neurons and peripheral glial cells (Schwann cells). P30 immunoreactivity of PNS neurons persisted into adulthood. In contrast, Schwann cell staining decreased after the second postnatal week and was not detectable in adult animals. Neuron-Schwann cell contact was correlated with diminished p30 levels in Schwann cells. Schwann cells of the normal adult sciatic nerve did not express p30; however, when deprived of axonal contact by nerve transection, the Schwann cells of the distal nerve stained intensely for p30. In addition, when Schwann cells and dorsal root ganglion neurons were grown in coculture, Schwann cells that were associated with neurites were not as intensely stained by anti-p30 as Schwann cells that were not in contact with neurons. The pattern of p30 expression during development and regeneration, and its apparent regulation by cell-cell contact suggests that p30 plays a role in the interaction between neurons and Schwann cells during morphogenesis of peripheral nerves.

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