Cell surface lectin receptors underwent rapid redistribution after embryonic Xenopus myotomal muscle cells were manipulated into contact in culture. Soybean agglutinin (SBA) receptors became highly concentrated at the contact area and concanavalin A (Con A) and ricin receptors were depleted at the same region. The accumulation of SBA receptors was greatly reduced by the presence of SBA specific sugars in the incubating medium, by precontact binding of SBA to the surface and by lowering the temperature, but it was unaffected by prolonged treatments with metabolic inhibitors. It is culture-age dependent: older cultures showed a markedly reduced extent of accumulation, and the high accumulation resulting from contact made in younger cultures disappeared with time in culture. These findings are consistent with the notion that specific molecular interaction between the contacting surfaces results in a redistribution of preexisting rapidly diffusing surface receptors. In support of this notion, ligand-free SBA and Con A receptors were shown to be laterally mobile in the membrane, and at least a subpopulation of the SBA receptors contains physically distinct molecules from the Con A receptors. We suggest that such contact-induced redistribution of various surface components may play a role in the interaction between embryonic cells.

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