The precise structural organization and proper functioning of the adult nervous system depend on the ability of neurones to make highly ordered synaptic connexions. To define molecules involved in the development of these connexions and to study their functional roles, we use primary cultures of dissociated rat sympathetic neurones grown in the virtual absence of non-neuronal cells. These neurones can develop adrenergic or cholinergic properties, depending on the environment in which they are grown.
This ability to manipulate neuronal phenotype is being used in an attempt to identify cell surface macromolecules that are important in the development or function of adrenergic and cholinergic properties. We have produced monoclonal antibodies against the surface membranes of these neurones and are in the process of characterizing them. Results are presented on the binding specificity of one of these antibodies and on the effect of two other antibodies on neurotransmitter synthesis, uptake, and release.