Neurocan is a central nervous tissue-specific chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan of the lectican family. Mainly expressed during modeling and remodeling stages of this tissue, it is thought to play an important role via binding to various extracellular matrix and cellular components. In adults, neurocan expression is associated with the perineuronal net structures. This study shows the neurocan immunolocalization at the node of Ranvier in mouse central nervous tissues. The N-terminal fragment of neurocan (Ncan130) was the predominant form detected in the optic nerve. The expression of neurocan in the white matter of brain tissue and nerve tracts revealed differential expression profiles compared with those of versican V2 and brevican, other perinodal extracellular matrix molecules. Double immunolabeling for neurocan and a nodal marker, Bral1, or a paranodal marker, caspr, demonstrated that neurocan was localized at the node of Ranvier. Neurocan expression was found at many--not all--nodal regions, and neurocan-positive nodes outnumbered brevican-positive nodes. The nodal localization of neurocan was diminished in Bral1-deficient mice. Taken together, these findings indicate that neurocan contributes to the molecular heterogeneity of the perinodal matrix, and its nodal expression is dependent on Bral1.
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