The distribution of NCAM in the chick hindlimb during axon outgrowth and synaptogenesis

Kathryn W. Tosney, Michiko Watanabe, Lynn Landmesser, Urs Rutishauser

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111 Scopus citations


We have determined the distribution and form of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in the chick hindlimb from initial axon outgrowth (stage 17 1 2) until 3 days posthatching by immunohistological staining and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis immunoblots. Axons stained intensely for NCAM at all ages, whereas non-neuronal limb components exhibited dynamic changes in staining. Mesenchymal cells in the sclerotome adjacent to the neural tube developed NCAM immunoreactivity in an anterior-posterior sequence which correlated with the sequence of axonal outgrowth. Low to moderate amounts of NCAM were detected within and surrounding presumptive nerve pathways, consistent with a permissive role for NCAM in axon extension, but not with a precise delineation of pathway boundaries. On myotubes immunoreactivity for NCAM remained low from stage 26 to 30 when it increased dramatically in both aneural and control limbs, indicating that its appearance is not triggered by nerve-dependent activity or trophic interactions. The increase was temporally associated with muscle cleavage and may encourage subsequent axon ramification as well as synaptogenesis. Staining remained high on muscle fibers during secondary myotube formation and only declined during the week before hatching when polyneuronal innervation is withdrawn and the mature synaptic pattern becomes stabilized. This loss of muscle NCAM occurred first on fast and then on slow muscle fibers. Together these results suggest that the timing of innervation may be controlled by the muscle, through NCAM expression, but that the subsequent suppression of muscle NCAM may occur as a result of nerve-mediated activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-452
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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