Nervous System Glycoproteins

Molecular Properties and Possible Functions
  • Paul T. Kelly


One of the goals of the cellular neurobiologist is to acquire information on the structure and function of membrane components at a molecular level. Within this area of study, one of the major interests has focused on membrane glycoproteins. Plasma membranes that have most attracted the interests of neuroscientists are membranes that are structurally or functionally distinct to the nervous system, e.g., membranes that make up axons, dendrites, growing neurites, synaptic vesicles, myelin, and synaptic junctions. The brain contains a vast diversity of cell types, both neuronal and nonneuronal; cellular entities that differ on the basis of anatomical location and neurophysiological properties. Thus, studies during the past two decades have concentrated on the identification and characterization of membrane glycoproteins that may be useful in distinguishing, or are unique to, specific classes of neurons, and more recently, different types of synapses. Advances in the areas of biochemistry, cellular and subcellular fractionation, cytochemistry, and immunology have made possible new approaches that have lead to a better understanding of the molecular and functional properties of membrane glycoproteins in the nervous system. One of the ultimate goals of the neurobiologist is to dissect the synapse into its constituent molecules and to elucidate the structural and functional contribution of each, and then in a synthetic approach, to determine intermolecular relationships that will provide a comprehensive understanding of how the synapse works. The development of procedures to isolate subcellular fractions highly enriched in subsynaptic structures such as synaptic junctions and postsynaptic densities has made possible the beginning of this difficult and complex task. The ability to adapt and grow cellular elements of nervous tissues under defined culture conditions has made possible the study of specific physiological and cell-cell interaction properties of individual neurons. The ability to culture embryonic neurons now allows one to study the behavior and molecular properties of neurons as they differentiate and form synaptic connections.


Sialic Acid Acetylcholine Receptor Synaptic Vesicle Growth Cone Retinal Cell 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul T. Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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