Phosphacan is a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan produced by glial cells in the central nervous system, and represents the extracellular domain of a receptor-type protein tyrosine phosphatase (RPTP zeta/beta). We previously demonstrated that soluble phosphacan inhibited the aggregation of microbeads coated with N-CAM or Ng-CAM, and have now found that soluble 125I-phosphacan bound reversibly to these neural cell adhesion molecules, but not to a number of other cell surface and extracellular matrix proteins. The binding was saturable, and Scatchard plots indicated a single high affinity binding site with a Kd of approximately 0.1 nM. Binding was reduced by approximately 15% after chondroitinase treatment, and free chondroitin sulfate was only moderately inhibitory, indicating that the phosphacan core glycoprotein accounts for most of the binding activity. Immunocytochemical studies of embryonic rat spinal phosphacan, Ng-CAM, and N-CAM have overlapping distributions. When dissociated neurons were incubated on dishes coated with combinations of phosphacan and Ng-CAM, neuronal adhesion and neurite growth were inhibited. 125I-phosphacan bound to neurons, and the binding was inhibited by antibodies against Ng-CAM and N-CAM, suggesting that these CAMs are major receptors for phosphacan on neurons. C6 glioma cells, which express phosphacan, adhered to dishes coated with Ng-CAM, and low concentrations of phosphacan inhibited adhesion to Ng-CAM but not to laminin and fibronectin. Our studies suggest that by binding to neural cell adhesion molecules, and possibly also by competing for ligands of the transmembrane phosphatase, phosphacan may play a major role in modulating neuronal and glial adhesion, neurite growth, and signal transduction during the development of the central nervous system.

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