Membrane-bound transferrin-like protein (MTf), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored protein, is expressed at high levels in many tumors and in several fetal and adult tissues including cartilage and the intestine, as well as in the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer's disease, although its role remains unknown. MTf is one of the major concanavalin A-binding proteins of the cell surface. In this study, we examined the effects of anti-MTf antibodies and concanavalin A on cell shape and gene expression, using cultures of chondrocytes and MTf-overexpressing ATDC5 and C3H10T1/2 cells. In cultures expressing MTf at high levels, concanavalin A induced cell-shape changes from fibroblastic to spherical cells, whereas no cell-shape changes were observed with wild-type ATDC5 or C3H10T1/2 cells expressing MTf at very low levels. The cell-shape changes were associated with enhanced proteoglycan synthesis and expression of cartilage-characteristic genes, including aggrecan and type II collagen. Some anti-MTf antibodies mimicked this action of concanavalin A, whereas other antibodies blocked the lectin action. The findings suggest that the crosslinking of MTf changes the cell shape and induces chondrogenic differentiation. MTf represents the first identification of a plant lectin receptor involved in cell-shape changes and the differentiation of animal cells.
- Concanavalin A
- GPI-anchored protein
- Membrane-bound transferrin-like protein