A major class of ankyrin-binding glycoproteins have been identified in adult rat brain of 186, 155, and 140 kD that are alternatively spliced products of the same pre-mRNA. Characterization of cDNAs demonstrated that ankyrin-binding glycoproteins (ABGPs) share 72% amino acid sequence identity with chicken neurofascin, a membrane-spanning neural cell adhesion molecule in the Ig super-family expressed in embryonic brain. ABGP polypeptides have the following features consistent with a role as ankyrin-binding proteins in vitro and in vivo: (a) ABGPs and ankyrin associate as pure proteins in a 1:1 molar stoichiometry; (b) the ankyrin-binding site is located in the COOH-terminal 21 kD of ABGP186 which contains the predicted cytoplasmic domain; (c) ABGP186 is expressed at approximately the same levels as ankyrin (15 pmoles/milligram of membrane protein); and (d) ABGP polypeptides are co-expressed with the adult form of ankyrinB late in postnatal development and are colocalized with ankyrinB by immunofluorescence. Similarity in amino acid sequence and conservation of sites of alternative splicing indicate that genes encoding ABGPs and neurofascin share a common ancestor. However, the major differences in developmental expression reported for neurofascin in embryos versus the late postnatal expression of ABGPs suggest that ABGPs and neurofascin represent products of gene duplication events that have subsequently evolved in parallel with distinct roles. The predicted cytoplasmic domains of rat ABGPs and chicken neurofascin are nearly identical to each other and closely related to a group of nervous system cell adhesion molecules with variable extracellular domains, which includes L1, Nr-CAM, and Ng-CAM of vertebrates, and neuroglian of Drosophila. The ankyrin-binding site of rat ABGPs is localized to the C-terminal 200 residues which encompass the cytoplasmic domain, suggesting the hypothesis that ability to associate with ankyrin may be a shared feature of neurofascin and related nervous system cell adhesion molecules.

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