The adhesion of embryonic chicken retinal cells and mouse N2A neuroblastoma cells to purified embryonic chicken retinal NCAM adsorbed on a solid substratum was examined using a quantitative centrifugal adhesion assay. Both cell types adhered to NCAM and the adhesion was specifically inhibited by monovalent anti-NCAM antibody fragments. N2A cell adhesion depended on the amount of NCAM applied to the substratum, was cation independent, and was insensitive to treatment with the cytoskeletal perturbing drugs colchicine and cytochalasin D. These results indicated that the tubulin and actin cytoskeletons were not critically required for adhesion to NCAM and make it unlikely that the cell surface ligand for NCAM is an integrin. Adhesion was however temperature dependent, strengthening greatly after a brief incubation at 37 degrees C. CHO cells transfected with NCAM cDNAs did not adhere specifically to substratum-bound NCAM and pretreatment of N2A cells and retinal cells with anti-NCAM antibodies did not inhibit adhesion to substratum-bound NCAM. These results suggest that a heterophilic interaction between substratum-adsorbed NCAM and a non-NCAM ligand on the surface of the probe cells affects adhesion in this system and support the possibility that heterophilic adhesion may be a function of NCAM in vivo.

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