Triggering neural cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily with specific ligands or antibodies inhibited the phosphorylation of tyrosyl residues in a subpopulation of α- and β-tubulin associated with membranes from a subcellular fraction of nerve growth cones from fetal rat brain. Preincubation of these membranes with purified extracellular fragments of L1, N-CAM, or myelin-associated glycoprotein, or with antibodies directed against the extracellular domains of L1 or N-CAM, inhibited pp60c-src phosphorylation of tubulin in an endogenous membrane kinase reaction. Other proteins that affect neurite outgrowth (fibronectin, laminin, antibodies against N-cadherin) had no effect. The results suggest that cell adhesion molecules transduce cell surface events to intracellular signals by modulating the activity of protein tyrosine kinases or phosphatases in axonal membranes to influence cytoskeletal dynamics at the growth cone.
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