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Fibronectins are high molecular mass glycoproteins that circulate as soluble molecules in the blood, and are also found in an insoluble, multimeric form in extracellular matrices throughout the body. Soluble fibronectins are polymerized into insoluble extracellular matrix (ECM) fibrils via a cell-dependent process. Recent studies indicate that the interaction of cells with the ECM form of fibronectin promotes actin organization and cell contractility, increases cell growth and migration, and enhances the tensile strength of artificial tissue constructs; ligation of integrins alone is insufficient to trigger these responses. Evidence suggests that the effect of ECM fibronectin on cell function is mediated in part by a matricryptic heparin-binding site within the first III1 repeat (FNIII 1). In this study, we localized the heparin-binding activity of FNIII1 to a cluster of basic amino acids, Arg613, Trp 614, Arg615, and Lys617. Site-directed mutagenesis of a recombinant fibronectin construct engineered to mimic the ECM form of fibronectin demonstrates that these residues are also critical for stimulating cell spreading and increasing cell proliferation. Cell proliferation has been tightly correlated with cell area. Using integrin- and heparin-binding fibronectin mutants, we found a positive correlation between cell spreading and growth when cells were submaximally spread on ECM protein-coated surfaces at the time of treatment. However, cells maximally spread on vitronectin or fibronectin still responded to the fibronectin matrix mimetic with an increase in growth, indicating that an absolute change in cell area is not required for the increase in cell proliferation induced by the matricryptic site of FNIII1. © 2006 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.


This research was originally published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. © the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology