We have recently characterized a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan from the murine central nervous system which is expressed by astrocytes in vitro and carries the L2/HNK-1 and L5 carbohydrate structures. In the present study, we provide evidence that its three core proteins of different size are similar in their proteolytic peptide maps and thus designate this group of structurally related molecules astrochondrin. During development, astrochondrin and the L5 carbohydrate were hardly detectable in the brain of 14-d-old mouse embryos by Western blot analysis. Expression of astrochondrin and the L5 epitope was highest at postnatal day 8, the peak of cerebellar granule cell migration and Bergmann glial process formation, and decreased to weakly detectable levels in the adult. Immunocytochemical localization of astrochondrin in the cerebellar cortex of 6-d-old mice showed association of immunoreactivity with the cell surface of astrocytes, including Bergmann glial processes and astrocytes in the internal granular layer or prospective white matter. Endfeet of astrocytes contacting the basal lamina of endothelial and meningeal cells and contact sites between Bergmann glial processes and granule cells also showed detectable levels of astrochondrin. Furthermore, granule cell axons in the molecular layer were astrochondrin immunoreactive. In the adult, astrochondrin immunoreactivity was weakly present in the internal granular layer and white matter. Both Fab fragments of polyclonal antibodies to astrochondrin and monovalent fragments of the L5 monoclonal antibody reduced the formation of processes of mature GFAP-positive astrocytes on laminin and collagen type IV, but not on fibronectin as substrata. Interestingly, the initial attachment of astrocytic cell bodies was not disturbed by these antibodies. Antibodies to astrochondrin also reduced the migration of granule cells in the early postnatal mouse cerebellar cortex. In a solid phase radioligand binding assay, astrochondrin was shown to bind to the extracellular matrix components laminin and collagen type IV, being enhanced in the presence of Ca2+, but not to fibronectin, J1/tenascin or other neural recognition molecules. Furthermore, astrochondrin interacted with collagen types III and V, less strongly with collagen types I, II, and IX, but not with collagen type VI. The interaction of astrochondrin with collagen types III and V was saturable and susceptible to increasing ionic strength, and could be competed by chondroitin sulfate, heparin, and dextran sulfate, but not by hyaluronic acid, glucose-6-phosphate, or neuraminic acid.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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