The influence of J1/tenascin adsorbed to polyornithine-conditioned plastic (substrate-bound J1/tenascin) and J1/tenascin present in the culture medium (soluble J1/tenascin) on neurite outgrowth was studied with cultured single cells from hippocampus and mesencephalon of embryonic rats. Neurons at low density grew well on J1/tenascin substrates and extended neurites that were approximately 40% longer than on the polyornithine control substrate after 24 h in vitro. The neurite outgrowth promoting effect of substrate bound J1/tenascin was largely abolished in the presence of mAb J1/tn2, but not by mAb J1/tn1. In contrast to the neurite growth-promoting effects of substrate bound J1/tenascin, neurite outgrowth on polyornithine, laminin, fibronectin, or J1/tenascin as substrates was inhibited by addition of soluble J1/tenascin to the cultures. Neither of the two mAbs neutralized the neurite outgrowth-inhibitory properties of soluble J1/tenascin. In contrast to their opposite effects on neurite outgrowth, both substrate-bound and soluble J1/tenascin reduced spreading of the neuronal cell bodies, suggesting that the neurite outgrowth-promoting and antispreading effects are mediated by two different sites on the molecule. This was further supported by the inability of the mAb J1/tn2 to neutralize the antispreading effect. The J1/tn2 epitope localizes to a fibronectin type III homology domain that is presumably distinct from the putative Tn68 cell-binding domain of chicken tenascin for fibroblasts, as shown by electronmicroscopic localization of antibody binding sites. We infer from these experiments that J1/tenascin contains a neurite outgrowth promoting domain that is distinguishable from the cell-binding site and presumably not involved in the inhibition of neurite outgrowth or cell spreading. Our observations support the notion that J1/tenascin is a multifunctional extracellular matrix molecule.

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