Long-term immunization of rabbits with postsynaptic densities (PSD) from bovine brain produced an antiserum specific for PSD as judged by binding to subcellular fractions and immunohistochemical location at the light and electron microscope levels. (a) The major antigens of bovine PSD preparations were three polypeptides of molecular weight 95,000 (PSD-95), 82,000 (PSD-82), and 72,000 (PSD-72), respectively. Antigen PSD-95, also present in mouse and rat PSDs was virtually absent from cytoplasm, myelin, mitochondria, and microsomes from rodent or bovine brain. Antigens PSD-82 and PSD-72 were present in all subcellular fractions from bovine brain, especially in mitochondria, but were almost absent from rodent brain. The antiserum also contained low-affinity antibodies against tubulin. (b)Immunohistochemical studies were performed in mouse and rat brain, where antigen PSD-95 accounted for 90 percent of the antiserum binding after adsorption with purified brain tubulin. At the light microscope level, antibody binding was observed only in those regions of the brain where synapses are known to be present. No reaction was observed in myelinated tracts, in the neuronal cytoplasm, or in nonneuronal cells. Strong reactivity was observed in the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, stratum oriens and stratum radiatum of the hippocampus, and the molecular layer of the cerebellum. Experimental lesions, such as ablation of the rat entorhinal cortex or intraventricular injection of kainic acid, which led to a major loss of PSD in well- defined areas of the hippocampal formation, caused a correlative decrease in immunoreactivity in these areas. Abnormal patterns of immunohistochemical staining correlated with abnormal synaptic patterns in the cerebella of reeler and staggerer mouse mutants. (c) At the electron microscopic level, immunoreactivity was detectable only in PSD. The antibody did not bind to myelin, mitochondria or plasma membranes. (d) The results indicate that antigen PSD-95 is located predominantly or exclusively in PSD and can be used as a marker during subcellular fractionation. Other potential uses include the study of synaptogenesis, and the detection of changes in synapse number after experimental perturbations of the nervous system.

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