Lectin binding distinguishes between neuroendocrine and neuronal derivatives of the sympathoadrenal neural crest

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neurobiology








adrenal medulla; carotid body; peanut agglutinin; small intensely fluorescent cells; sympathetic neurons


Lectin cytochemistry was used to identify surface epitopes selectively expressed by chromaffin cell chemoreceptors (glomus cells) in the rat carotid body. Unexpectedly, these studies revealed that binding sites for peanut agglutinin (PNA; Arachis hypogea) were highly expressed by all neuroendocrine derivatives of the sympathoadrenal neural crest, including glomus cells, small, intensely fluorescent cells, and adrenal chromaffin cells in situ. In contrast, principal sympathetic neurons did not express PNA receptors. PNA binding was inhibited by 2% galactose. To determine whether expression of PNA receptors was selectively induced by neuroendocrine differentiation of sympathoadrenal precursors, we compared PNA labeling of embryonic sympathoblasts in the presence of either nerve growth factor (NGF) or the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (DEX). Dex‐treated cells, which expressed several neuroendocrine traits, bound PNA, whereas NGF‐treated neuronal derivatives did not. In addition, to examine whether expression of existing PNA receptors was down‐regulated by neuronal differentiation of chromaffin cells, we compared labeling of PC12 cells, which normally bind PNA, in the presence and absence of NGF. Although PC12 cells acquired characteristic neuronal morphologies in the presence of NGF, they did not lose PNA labeling, even after 8 days of NGF treatment. These findings indicate that neuronal and neuroendocrine derivatives of the sympathoadrenal lineage can be distinguished by differential expression of carbohydrate epitopes and suggest that PNA receptors are induced by neuroendocrine differentiation. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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