Plasma fibronectin readily changes shape in response to environmental conditions which may, in turn, lead to differential expression of its multiple functional sites. To test this possibility, the expression of two of the type III modules within cell binding domain of fibronectin was assessed with monoclonal antibodies (mAb). Utilizing proteolytic and recombinant fragments of plasma fibronectin, the epitopes recognized by mAbIII-9 and mAbIII-10 were localized to the ninth and tenth (RGD-containing) type III repeats of fibronectin, respectively. Both mAb inhibited the adhesion of platelets to immobilized fibronectin, suggesting that the recognized epitopes resided in close spatial proximity to the cell binding sites. Radioimmunoassay and Scatchard analyses showed that, in solution, each dimeric fibronectin molecule bound two mAbIII-9 but only one mAbIII-10 molecule (ionic strength 0.15, pH 7.4). The binding of a single mAbIII-10 per fibronectin molecule was verified by electron microscopy. Heparin, heparan sulfate, gangliosides (but not chondroitin sulfates A and B and hyaluronic acid), and self-association increased the apparent affinity of mAbIII-10 for soluble fibronectin. Adsorption of fibronectin onto a polystyrene surface resulted in the appearance of an additional binding site for mAbIII-10. MAbIII-9 binding also was altered by fibronectin immobilization. These results suggest that the deposition of fibronectin and its interaction with components of the extracellular matrix can modulate the expression of the cell binding domains including the RGDS-containing type III repeat. Exposure of the second tenth type III repeat within the fibronectin dimer, as a result of unfolding on a surface, could contribute to the enhanced adhesiveness of adsorbed fibronectin.
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