The myelin Po protein is believed to hold myelin together via interactions of both its extracellular and cytoplasmic domains. We have already shown that the extracellular domains of Po can interact in a homophilic manner (Filbin, M.T., F.S. Walsh, B.D. Trapp, J.A. Pizzey, and G.I. Tennekoon. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 344:871-872). In addition, we have shown that for this homophilic adhesion to take place, the cytoplasmic domain of Po must be intact and most likely interacting with the cytoskeleton; Po proteins truncated in their cytoplasmic domains are not adhesive (Wong, M.H., and M.T. Filbin, 1994. J. Cell Biol. 126:1089-1097). To determine if the presence of these truncated forms of Po could have an effect on the functioning of the full-length Po, we coexpressed both molecules in CHO cells. The adhesiveness of CHO cells expressing both full-length Po and truncated Po was then compared to cells expressing only full-length Po. In these coexpressors, both the full-length and the truncated Po proteins were glycosylated. They reached the surface of the cell in approximately equal amounts as shown by an ELISA and surface labeling, followed by immunoprecipitation. Furthermore, the amount of full-length Po at the cell surface was equivalent to other cell lines expressing only full-length Po that we had already shown to be adhesive. Therefore, there should be sufficient levels of full-length Po at the surface of these coexpressors to measure adhesion of Po. However, as assessed by an aggregation assay, the coexpressors were not adhesive. By 60 min they had not formed large aggregates and were indistinguishable from the control transfected cells not expressing Po. In contrast, in the same time, the cells expressing only the full-length Po had formed large aggregates. This indicates that the truncated forms of Po have a dominant-negative effect on the adhesiveness of the full-length Po. Furthermore, from cross-linking studies, full-length Po, when expressed alone but not when coexpressed with truncated Po, appears to cluster in the membrane. We suggest that truncated Po exerts its dominant-negative effect by preventing clustering of full-length Po. We also show that colchicine, which disrupts microtubules, prevents adhesion of cells expressing only the full-length Po. This strengthens our suggestion that an interaction of Po with the cytoskeleton, either directly or indirectly, is required for adhesion to take place.

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