Ng-CAM and N-CAM are cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), and each CAM can bind homophilically as demonstrated by the ability of CAM-coated beads (Covaspheres) to self-aggregate. We have found that the extent of aggregation of Covaspheres coated with either Ng-CAM or N-CAM was strongly inhibited by the intact 1D1 and 3F8 chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans of rat brain, and by the core glycoproteins resulting from chondroitinase treatment of the proteoglycans. Much higher concentrations of rat chondrosarcoma chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (aggrecan) core proteins had no significant effect in these assays. The 1D1 and 3F8 proteoglycans also inhibited binding of neurons to Ng-CAM when mixtures of these proteins were adsorbed to polystyrene dishes. Direct binding of neurons to the proteoglycan core glycoproteins from brain but not from chondrosarcoma was demonstrated using an assay in which cell-substrate contact was initiated by centrifugation, and neuronal binding to the 1D1 proteoglycans was specifically inhibited by the 1D1 monoclonal antibody. Different forms of the 1D1 proteoglycan have been identified in developing and adult brain. The early postnatal form (neurocan) was found to bind neurons more effectively than the adult proteoglycan, which represents the C-terminal half of the larger neurocan core protein. Our results therefore indicate that certain brain proteoglycans can bind to neurons, and that Ng-CAM and N-CAM may be heterophilic ligands for neurocan and the 3F8 proteoglycan. The ability of these brain proteoglycans to inhibit adhesion of cells to CAMs may be one mechanism to modulate cell adhesion and migration in the nervous system.

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