• axonal gradient;
  • growth cone;
  • MAP 1B;
  • phosphorylation


The present study investigated the cellular distribution of a developmentally regulated phosphorylated form of MAP 1B recognized by monoclonal antibody (mAb) 150 in cultures of dorsal root ganglia. The cell soma and the whole axon, when it first appears, are labelled, but longer axons label with a proximodistal gradient, such that the cell soma and proximal axon become unlabelled, whilst the distal axon and growth cone label strongly. Double-labelling experiments with mAb 150 and a polyclonal antibody (N1–15) that recognizes all forms of MAP 1B demonstrated that MAP 1B is distributed along the entire length of axons with gradients, so the gradient of phosphorylated MAP 1B is not due to a loss or absence of MAP 1B from the proximal axon. The proportion of axons from 20 h cultures that were labelled with a mAb 150 gradient was at least 80% and this proportion was independent of the nerve growth factor concentration of the culture medium. Analysis of axons ranging in length from 100 to 700 μm and labelled with a gradient showed that the unlabelled proximal portions of axons increased in length more slowly than the labelled distal axon. Axons labelled along their entire length accounted for no more than 19% of the axonal population and analysis of these showed them to be frequently <400 μm long. After simultaneously fixing and detergent-extracting cultures this proportion rose significantly to 93%, suggesting that in the proximal axon the mAb 150 epitope is masked by some factor(s) that is removed by detergent extraction. The possibility that mAb 150 could not access the epitope in the proximal axon was discounted because another IgM, mAb 125, which recognizes a different phosphorylation epitope on MAP 1B, labelled the proximal axon of conventionally fixed cultures. In growth cones of fixed and extracted neurons examined by immunofluorescence, the mAb 150 labelling strongly colocalized to bundled microtubules in the distal axon shaft and the C-domain. In the P-domain, mAb 150 staining was weaker and more widely distributed than the microtubules. Immunogold electron microscopy confirmed that antibody N1–15 and mAb 150 strongly labelled the bundled microtubules in the C-domain and also showed that individual microtubules in the P-domain, some of which lie alongside actin filament bundles of filopodia, were labelled lightly and discontinuously with both antibodies. This suggests that the phosphorylated isoform of MAP 1B recognized by mAb 150 may be involved in bundling microtubules in the proximal region of the growth cone and in the interaction between microtubules and actin filaments in the P-domain.