Characterization of “plasma proteins” secreted by cultured rat macroglial cells

Kathleen R. Zahs, Violeta Bigornia, Christian F. Deschepper

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35 Scopus citations


The brain is isolated behind a blood‐tissue barrier that restricts the access of circulating proteins to neural cells. There is evidence that some of these proteins are synthesized within the central nervous system. The present study examines the synthesis and secretion of such proteins by cultured macroglial cells. Primary glial cultures were derived from cortical and subcortical regions of neonatal rat brains, and subsequent secondary cultures were enriched in type‐1 astrocytes, type‐2 astrocytes, or oligodendrocytes. Newly synthesized proteins were immunoprecipitated from the culture media using antisera directed against whole rat serum. All three types of glial cells secreted a range of plasma proteins. In general, type‐1 astrocytes secreted more of these proteins than did type‐2 astrocytes or oligodendrocytes, although the one‐dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) profiles were specific for each cell type. Antisera directed against specific plasma proteins identified three of the most abundant proteins secreted by type‐1 astrocytes as transferrin, α‐2‐macroglobulin, and ceruloplasmin. Northern blot analysis of cellular RNA confirmed that type‐1 astrocytes contained transferrin mRNA, and that it was more abundant in cultures derived from subcortical regions than from cortical regions. In situ hybridization studies revealed that virtually all type‐1 and type‐2 astrocytes contained transferrin mRNA. Since the proteins identified in this study have been proposed to have a variety of neurotrophic roles in the central nervous system, these data further extend the range of possible functions that glial cells may serve in the CNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-133
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocyte
  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Transferrin
  • α‐2‐Macroglobulin


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