Localization of fibronectin matrix assembly sites on fibroblasts and endothelial cells

Renee A. Christopher, Andrew P. Kowalczyk, Paula J. McKeown-Longo

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80 Scopus citations


Polymerization of soluble fibronectin into extracellular matrix fibers occurs through the interaction between the amino terminus of fibronectin contained within a 70 kDa fragment and 'matrix assembly sites' on the cell surface. The present studies were performed to localize the 'matrix assembly sites) (defined by 70 kDa binding sites) on newly adherent cells and on cells containing preformed fibronectin matrix. Matrix nucleation sites on newly spread cells were visualized using Texas Red conjugated 70 kDa fragment and were found to colocalize with vinculin and substrate fibronectin fibrils. Cells plated onto vitronectin coated coverslips did not exhibit any 70 kDa binding sites although these cells were well-spread with fully developed focal adhesions. Time course studies indicated that 70 kDa binding sites could be detected on newly adherent cells within 30-40 minutes following cell plating onto fibronectin coated coverslips, prior to the reorganization of substrate fibronectin into fibrils. Similarly, exogenous fibronectin conjugated with Texas Red was also colocalized with vinculin when added to newly adherent cells. The disruption of actin filaments with cytochalasin D both prevented the expression of 70 kDa binding sites and also resulted in the loss of established 70 kDa binding sites on newly spread cells. After 3 days in culture, cells organized an extensive fibronectin matrix and 70 kDa was colocalized with two distinct types of matrix fibronectin fibers: fine linear cell-associated fibers which co-stained with the β1 integrin and coarse extracellular fibers which did not stain for the β1 integrin. There was also a third type of fibronectin fiber which was organized into a meshwork structure. There was no localization of either β1 or 70 kDa to these structures. Treatment of 3-day cells with cytochalasin D resulted in the disruption of cell-matrix fibers and cell-associated 70 kDa binding sites. In contrast, the coarse extracellular matrix fibers as well as the meshwork fibers were unaffected by cytochalasin. In the presence of cytochalasin D, 70 kDa bound to sites which colocalized with the coarse extracellular matrix fibers. These data suggest that de novo assembly of fibronectin matrix occurs at sites of focal adhesion and as fibronectin polymerization proceeds, matrix nucleation sites colocalize along cell associated fibronectin fibers. At later times 70 kDa is localized to a subset of more mature fibronectin-containing fibers. These results suggest that there are at least three morphologically distinct 70 kDa binding sites on adherent cells: one which colocalizes with β1 to focal adhesions, a second which colocalizes with β1 and fibronectin in matrix contacts, and a third which localizes to extracellular matrix fibers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-581
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology


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