The extracellular domain of the myelin P0 protein is believed to engage in adhesive interactions and thus hold the myelin membrane compact. We have previously shown that P0 can behave as a homophilic adhesion molecule through interactions of its extracellular domains (Filbin, M. T., F. S. Walsh, B. D. Trapp, J. A. Pizzey, and G. I. Tennekoon. 1990. Nature (Lond.) 344:871-872). To determine if the cytoplasmic domain of P0 must be intact for the extracellular domains to adhere, we compared the adhesive capabilities of P0 proteins truncated at the COOH-terminal to the full-length P0 protein. P0 cDNAs lacking nucleotides coding for the last 52 or 59 amino acids were transfected into CHO cells, and surface expression of the truncated proteins was assessed by immunofluorescence, surface labeling followed by immunoprecipitation, and an ELISA. Cell lines were chosen that expressed at least equivalent amounts of the truncated P0 proteins at the surface as did a cell line expressing the full-length P0. The adhesive properties of these three cell lines were compared. It was found that when a suspension of single cells was allowed to aggregate for a period of 60 min, only the cells expressing the full-length P0 had formed large aggregates, while the cells expressing the truncated P0 molecules were still mostly single cells indistinguishable from the control cells. Furthermore, 25-30% of the full-length P0 was insoluble in NP40, indicative of an interaction with the cytoskeleton, whereas only 5-10% of P0 lacking 52 amino acids and none of P0 lacking 59 amino acids were insoluble. These results suggest that for the extracellular domain of P0 to behave as a homophilic adhesion molecule, its cytoplasmic domain must be intact, and most probably, it is interacting with the cytoskeleton.

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