Cek9 is a receptor tyrosine kinase of the Eph subfamily for which only a partial cDNA sequence was known (Sajjadi, F.G., and E.B. Pasquale. 1993. Oncogene. 8:1807-1813). We have obtained the entire cDNA sequence and identified a variant form of Cek9 that lacks a signal peptide. We subsequently examined the spatio-temporal expression and tyrosine phosphorylation of Cek9 in the chicken embryo by using specific antibodies. At embryonic day 2, Cek9 immunoreactivity is concentrated in the eye, the brain, the posterior region of the neural tube, and the most recently formed somites. Later in development, Cek9 expression is widespread but particularly prominent in neural tissues. In the developing visual system, Cek9 is highly concentrated in areas containing retinal ganglion cell axons, suggesting a role in regulating their outgrowth to the optic tectum. Unlike other Eph-related receptors, Cek9 is substantially phosphorylated on tyrosine in many tissues at various developmental stages. Since autophosphorylation of receptor protein-tyrosine kinases typically correlates with increased enzymatic activity, this suggests that Cek9 plays an active role in embryonic signal transduction pathways.

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