Cells in the developing nervous system secrete a large number of proteins that regulate the migration and differentiation of their neighbors. It is shown here that a clonal central nervous system cell line secretes a protein that causes both a rat hippocampal progenitor cell line and primary cortical neural cells to differentiate into cells with the morphological and biochemical features of neurons. This protein was identified as F-spondin. Analysis of F-spondin isoforms secreted from transfected cells shows that the core protein without the thrombospondin type 1 repeats is sufficient to promote neuronal differentiation when adsorbed to a surface. F-spondin can also inhibit neurite outgrowth while allowing the expression of nerve-specific proteins when present in a soluble form at high concentrations. Therefore, F-spondin can alter cell differentiation in multiple ways, depending upon its concentration and distribution between substrate-attached and soluble forms.
- Neural precursor