Diverse cell-surface molecules of the nervous system play an important role in specifying cell interactions during development. Using a method designed to generate mAbs against neural surface molecules of defined molecular weight, we have previously reported on the surface protein, Bravo, found in the developing avian retinotectal system. Bravo is immunologically detected on developing optic fibers in the retina, but absent from distal regions of the same fibers in the tectum. We have isolated cDNA clones encompassing the entire coding region of Bravo, including clones containing five alternative sequences of cDNA. These putative alternatively spliced sequences encode stretches of polypeptide ranging in length from 10-93 amino acids and are predicted to be both extra- and intracellular. The deduced primary structure of Bravo reveals that, like the cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) chicken Ng-CAM and mouse L1, Bravo is composed of six Ig-like domains, five fibronectin type III repeats, a transmembrane domain, and a short cytoplasmic region. Recently, the cDNA sequence of a related molecule, Nr-CAM, was reported and its possible identity with Bravo discussed (Grumet, M., V. Mauro, M. P. Burgoon, G. E. Edelman, and B. A. Cunningham. 1991. J. Cell Biol. 113:1399-1412). Here we confirm this identity and moreover show that Bravo is found on Müller glial processes and end-feet in the developing retina. In contrast to the single polypeptide chain structure of Nr-CAM reported previously, we show that Bravo has a heterodimer structure composed of an alpha chain of M(r) 140/130 and a beta chain of 60-80 kD. As with L1 and Ng-CAM, the two chains of Bravo are generated from an intact polypeptide by cleavage at identical locations and conserved sites within all three molecules (Ser-Arg/Lys-Arg). The similar domain composition and heterodimer structure, as well as the 40% amino acid sequence identity of these molecules, defines them as an evolutionarily related subgroup of CAMs. The relationship of Bravo to molecules known to be involved in cell adhesion and process outgrowth, combined with its pattern of expression and numerous potential isoforms, suggests a complex role for this molecule in cell interactions during neural development.

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