Cell attachment and neurite outgrowth by embryonic neural retinal cells were measured in separate quantitative assays to define differences in substrate preference and to demonstrate developmentally regulated changes in cellular response to different extracellular matrix glycoproteins. Cells attached to laminin, fibronectin, and collagen IV in a concentration-dependent fashion, though fibronectin was less effective for attachment than the other two substrates. Neurite outgrowth was much more extensive on laminin than on fibronectin or collagen IV. These results suggest that different substrates have distinct effects on neuronal differentiation. Neural retinal cell attachment and neurite outgrowth were inhibited on all three substrates by two antibodies, cell substratum attachment antibody (CSAT) and JG22, which recognize a cell surface glycoprotein complex required for cell interactions with several extracellular matrix constituents. In addition, retinal cells grew neurites on substrates coated with the CSAT antibodies. These results suggest that cell surface molecules recognized by this antibody are directly involved in cell attachment and neurite extension. Neural retinal cells from embryos of different ages varied in their capacity to interact with extracellular matrix substrates. Cells of all ages, embryonic day 6 (E6) to E12, attached to collagen IV and CSAT antibody substrates. In contrast, cell attachment to laminin and fibronectin diminished with increasing embryonic age. Age-dependent differences were found in the profile of proteins precipitated by the CSAT antibody, raising the possibility that modifications of these proteins are responsible for the dramatic changes in substrate preference of retinal cells between E6 and E12.

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