The production of laminin by early rat astrocytes in primary culture was investigated by double immunofluorescence staining for laminin and the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a defined astrocyte marker. In early cultures (3 d in vitro; 3 DIV) cytoplasmic laminin was detected in all the GFAP-positive cells which formed the major population (80%) of the nonneuronal cells present in cultures from 20-21-d embryonic, newborn, or 5-d-old rat brains. Monensin treatment (10 microM, 4 h) resulted in accumulation of laminin in the Golgi region, located using labeled wheat germ agglutinin. Laminin started gradually to disappear from the cells with the time in culture, was absent in star-shaped, apparently mature astrocytes, but remained as pericellular matrix deposits. The disappearance of cellular laminin was dependent on the age of the animal and the time in culture so that it started earlier in cultures from 5-d-old rat brains (5 DIV) and approximately following the in vivo age difference in cultures from newborn (12 DIV) and embryonic (14 DIV) rat brains. Our results indicate that laminin is a protein of early astrocytes and also deposited by them in primary culture, thus suggesting a role for this glycoprotein in the development of the central nervous system.

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