We have used serologic, biochemical, and genetic methods to characterize two stage-specific human differentiation antigens of neural and melanocytic cells: A42 (57,000 Mr glycoprotein) and J143 (140,000/30,000 Mr glycoprotein). The genes determining A42 and J143 cell surface expression in rodent-human hybrids were chromosomally mapped, and the respective human chromosomes were introduced into rodent cells derived from distinct differentiation lineages. Serologic analysis of the resulting hybrid clones has permitted the identification of two types of regulatory signals determining A42 and J143 expression. First, both antigens are expressed in hybrids constructed with antigen-positive human cells and also in certain hybrids constructed with antigen-negative human cells, indicating that intrinsic signals provided by the differentiation program of the rodent fusion partner induce antigen expression. Second, a series of human-mouse neuroblastoma hybrids, which are A42- or J143- when cultured on plastic surfaces, can be induced to express the antigens when cultured on substrates coated with extracellular matrix (ECM) produced by bovine corneal endothelial cells or fibronectin. This induction of antigen expression by extrinsic, ECM-derived signals is accompanied in the neuroblastoma hybrids by increased substrate adhesiveness and cell spreading and by characteristic changes in cell morphology. A similar program of phenotypic changes is also seen in spontaneous variants of human neuroblastoma and Ewing's sarcoma cells and in ECM-induced Ewing's sarcoma cells. These findings suggest that ECM-derived signals have a role analogous to mitogens and soluble differentiation factors in modulating differentiation phenotypes and tissue-specific patterns of cell surface antigen expression.

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