Receptor-linked tyrosine phosphatases regulate cell growth by dephosphorylating proteins involved in tyrosine kinase signal transduction. The leukocyte common antigen-related (LAR) tyrosine phosphatase receptor has sequence similarity to the neural cell adhesion molecule N-CAM and is located in a chromosomal region (1p32-33) frequently altered in neuroectodermal tumors. To understand the function of receptor-linked tyrosine phosphatases in neural development, we sought to identify LAR isoforms preferentially expressed in the nervous system and cellular processes regulating LAR alternative splicing. We report here the isolation of a series of rat LAR cDNA clones arising from complex combinatorial alternative splicing, not previously demonstrated for the tyrosine phosphatase-receptor gene family in general. Isoforms included: (a) deletions of the fourth, sixth and seventh fibronectin type III-like domains; (b) an alternatively spliced novel cassette exon in the fifth fibronectin type III-like domain; (c) two alternatively spliced novel cassette exons in the juxtamembrane region; (d) a retained intron in the extracellular region with in-frame stop codons predicting a secreted LAR isoform; and (e) an LAR transcript including an alternative 3' untranslated region containing multiple stretches of tandem CAG repeats up to 21 repeats in length. This number of repeats was in the range found in normal alleles of genes in which expansions of repeats are associated with neurodegenerative disease and the genetic phenomenon of anticipation. RT-PCR and Northern analysis demonstrated that LAR alternative splicing occurred preferentially in neuromuscular tissue in vivo and in neurons compared to astrocytes in vitro and was developmentally regulated. Alternative splicing was also regulated in PC12 cells by NGF, in 3T3 fibroblasts by cell confluence and in sciatic nerve and muscle subsequent to nerve transection. Western blot analysis demonstrated that alternatively spliced cassette exons result in the presence of corresponding amino acid segments of LAR protein in vivo. These studies suggest specialized functions of LAR isoforms in the nervous system and support our hypothesis that LAR-like tyrosine phosphatase receptors play a role in neural development and regeneration.

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