Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) play important roles in cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. We performed reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR) from enriched embryonic day 5 (E5) chick motoneurons by panning to identify RTKs involved in the early development of motoneuron. In situ hybridization revealed that Cek8, a member of the eph family, was specifically expressed on motoneurons at the brachial and lumbar segments of the spinal cord which innervate limb muscles, and disappeared after the naturally occurring cell death period (E6-E11). Immunohistochemistry using an anti-Cek8 monoclonal antibody showed the localization of Cek8 protein at the cell bodies and axonal fibers of motoneurons and muscles. The unique expression of Cek8 suggests its involvement in cellular survival or cell-cell interactions for specific subpopulations of developing motoneurons.
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