Clonal cell lines N18 and N103 of the mouse neuroblastoma C1300 possess an undifferentiated neuroblast morphology under optimal growth conditions; however, when deprived of serum, N18 can be induced to extend long neurites. Although initial neurite outgrowth is rapid, very long fibers are found only after several days. Both initial outgrowths and established neurites contain microtubules; however, the number and density of these polymerized tubules increase markedly during this time. Optimum conditions have been established for assessing the colchicine-binding activity of neuroblastoma sonicates. A time-decay colchicine-binding assay was used to make a comparative study of the tubulin content of both undifferentiated and differentiated N18 as well as the nondifferentiating N103 and the rat glioma C6. Both morphologies of clone N18 possessed similar concentrations of tubulin (130-140 pmol/10(6) cells). Although cells of clone N103 contain 20% less tubulin than N18 cells, this is considerably more tubulin than is present in the glioma C6 (30 pmol/10(6) cells) which has a similar generation time. Quantitative densitometry of neuroblastoma extracts electrophoresed on SDS-polyacrylamide gels confirmed the constancy of tubulin. Radiolabeled proteins from neuroblastoma cells subjected to both growth conditions show that neurite outgrowth does not create a disproportionate demand for tubulin synthesis. Thus, the morphological differentiation of neuroblastoma cells probably reflects the regulation of tubulin storage and microtubule polymerization.

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