Concanavalin A strongly agglutinates purified fragments of immature and mature rat brain myelin, but only weakly agglutinates mature bovine and human myelin fragments. A sensitive method involving [3H]concanavalin binding to sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide gels was used to detect the concanavalin A-binding proteins in purified myelin. When applied to mature rat brain myelin proteins that had been labelled in vivo with [14C]fucose, the distribution of the [3H]concanavalin A on the gel was very similar to that of [14C]fucose with the major peak corresponding to the major myelin-associated glycoprotein. The technique revealed that the immature form of the myelin-associated glycoprotein with a slightly larger apparent molecular weight also bound concanavalin A, and that in purified immature rat myelin the quantitative importance of some of the other glycoproteins in binding concanavalin A was increased relative to the myelin-associated glycoprotein. The separated proteins of bovine and human myelin bound more [3H]-concanavalin A than those of rat myelin. In these species, the myelin-associated glycoprotein was a major concanavalin A-binding protein, although two higher-molecular-weight glycoproteins also bound significant quantities of [3H]concanavalin A. The results indicate that there are receptors for concanavalin A on the surface of rat, bovine and human myelin membranes and suggest that the myelin-associated glycoprotein is one of the principal receptors.

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