Tenascin-like material is associated with glial cells that form borders around developing glomerular units in the olfactory (antennal) lobe of the moth Manduca sexta and is present at critical stages of glomerulus formation (Krull et al., 1994, J. Neurobiol. 25:515-534). Tenascin-like immunoreactivity declines in the mature lobe, coincident with a wave of synapse formation within the glomeruli and glomerulus stabilization. Tenascin-like molecules associated with neuropilar glia are in the correct position to influence the branching patterns of growing neurites by constraining them to glomeruli. In this study, we examine the growth of cultured moth antennal-lobe neurons in response to mouse CNS tenascin. Uniform tenascin provides a poor substrate for cell-body attachment and neurite outgrowth. Neuronal cell bodies provided with a striped substratum consisting of tenascin and concanavalin-A (con-A)/laminin attach preferentially to con-A/laminin lanes. Most neurons restrict their branching to con-A/laminin lanes both at early and later times in culture but others send processes across multiple tenascin and con-/laminin lanes in an apparently indiscriminate manner. Tenascin can inhibit the neuritic outgrowth of most antennal-lobe neurons, and this raises the possibility that the tenascin-like molecules associated with neuropilar glia in vivo act to constrain growing neurites to glomeruli. Thus, glial cells, acting in concert with olfactory axons, might act to promote glomerular patterns of branching by antennal-lobe neurons.
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