In this paper we describe a kinetic assay for cell adhesion which measures the formation of cell clusters. Cluster formation is dependent on both calcium and protein synthesis, two parameters essential for the formation of histotypic aggregates. We also describe modifications of the stndard method for trypsinization of tissues which result in populations of single cells that appear to bear intact and functional cell surface adhesive systems. These modifications involve the use of chymotrypsin and the inclusion of calcium during enzyme digestion of tissues with trypsin and chymotrypsin. Using the cluster formation assay and the modified tissue dissociation techniques, we demonstrate the presence of two functionally distinct adhesive systems operating among embryonic chick neural retina cells. These two systems differ in proteolytic sensitivity, protection by calcium against proteolysis, dependence on calcium for function and morphogenetic potential. Cells possessing one of these intact adhesive systems are capable of extensive morphogenetic interactions in the absence of protein synthesis.

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