Substratum-dependent stimulation of fibroblast migration by the gelatin-binding domain of fibronectin

S L Schor, I Ellis, C Dolman, J Banyard, M J Humphries, D F Mosher, A M Grey, A P Mould, J Sottile, A M Schor

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    Nanomolar concentrations of native fibronectin and its RGDS-containing cell-binding domain have previously been reported to stimulate fibroblast migration in the transmembrane (or 'Boyden chamber') assay; in contrast, the gelatin-binding domain (GBD) of fibronectin has consistently been reported to be devoid of migration-stimulating activity in this assay. We have examined the effects of fibronectin and several of its purified functional domains on the migration of human skin fibroblasts in what is presumably a more physiologically relevant assay involving the movement of cells into a 3-D matrix of native type I collagen fibrils. We report that: (a) femtomolar concentrations of GBD stimulate fibroblast migration into such collagen matrices; and (b) fibronectin, as well as peptides containing all other of its functional domains, do not exhibit migration-stimulating activity when tested in the femtomolar to nanomolar concentration range (i.e. 0.1 pg/ml to 1 microgram/ml). The correct assignment of migration-stimulating activity to GBD, rather than to a contaminant, was confirmed by: (a) the use of several fibronectin and GBD purification protocols; (b) the neutralization of GBD migration-stimulating activity by monoclonal antibodies directed against epitopes present in this domain; (c) the time-dependent generation of migration-stimulating activity by the proteolytic degradation of native fibronectin; and (d) obtaining an identical dose-response curve with a genetically engineered GBD peptide. The cryptic migration-stimulating activity of GBD was not affected by the presence of serum or native fibronectin, but was inhibited by TGF-beta 1. Parallel experiments using the transmembrane assay confirmed that GBD was devoid of migration-stimulating activity in this assay when membranes coated with gelatin were used, but revealed that significant stimulation of migration was achieved with membranes coated with native type I collagen. Cells preincubated with GBD for 24 hours whilst growing on plastic tissue culture dishes and then plated onto native collagen matrices in the absence of further GBD also displayed an elevated migration compared to controls. Taken together, these observations suggest that: (a) the interaction of GBD with a putative cell surface receptor (and not the collagen substratum) initiates a persistent alteration in cell phenotype which is manifest by an increase in migratory activity when these cells are cultured on a native collagen substratum; and (b) GBD may play a hitherto unrecognised role in the control of cell migration in response to the local release of proteases during pathological processes, such as tumour invasion and wound repair.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2581-90
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Cell Science
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • Cell Movement/drug effects
    • Cells, Cultured
    • Collagen/metabolism
    • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
    • Fibroblasts/physiology
    • Fibronectins/chemistry
    • Gelatin/metabolism
    • Humans
    • Skin/cytology


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