Neural tissues contain high levels of the cellular homologue of the transforming protein of Rous sarcoma virus (RSV), but neither the specific cell types expressing high levels of c-src, nor the function of the cellular src (c-src) protein has been determined. Using primary culture methods, we have found that pure neurones and astrocytes derived from the rat central nervous system (CNS) contain 15- to 20-times higher levels of the c-src protein than fibroblasts. However, the specific activity of the c-src protein from the neuronal cultures is 6- to 12-times higher than that from the astrocyte cultures. In addition, the c-src protein expressed in neuronal cultures contains a structural alteration within the amino-terminal region of the molecule that causes a shift in the mobility of the c-src protein on the SDS-polyacrylamide gels. These results indicate that a structurally distinct form of the cellular src protein that possesses an activated tyrosylkinase activity is expressed at very high levels in post-mitotic CNS neurones.
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