Immunological approaches to the nervous system

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Science  21 Sep 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4668, pp. 1294-1299
DOI: 10.1126/science.6147895


Immunology has had a major impact on neurobiology, expanding dramatically the number of subjects amenable to investigation. Studies with antibodies to neuropeptides, transmitters, and transmitter enzymes have disclosed a great heterogeneity among neurons and have provided clues for interpreting anatomical connections. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to identify functionally related subpopulations of neurons and cell lineages in development and to study mechanisms by which axons grow along stereotypic pathways to reach their targets. Other antibodies have identified molecules that appear to participate in cell aggregation, cell migration, cell position, and axon growth. Antibodies have revealed that many proteins are concentrated in anatomically distinct regions of the neuron. Moreover, these studies have suggested that individual proteins have different antigenic epitopes shielded or modified in different parts of the same neuron. Antibodies to membrane proteins crucial for neuronal function, such as ion pumps, ion-selective channels, and receptors, have been used to map their distributions and to study their structures at high resolution.