Cellular fibronectin (Fn) bearing an alternatively spliced extra type III structural repeat (ED1) is normally present at low concentrations in blood plasma. The source of this material remains uncertain. In this study, primary cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) labeled with 35S-methionine were observed to synthesize Fn monomers both with and without this segment. Monomers isolated from cell lysates with antibodies to the ED1 sequence comigrated in nonreduced sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with the slower (designated M1), but not the faster (designated M2), of two major monomeric populations that were recognized by antibodies raised to plasma-derived Fn. The differences between M1 and M2 were not due to glycosylation, since they were also observed between species of Fn monomer purified from cells grown in the presence of tunicamycin. M1 and M2 were both observed to incorporate with a similar rate into dimeric Fn, indicating that Fn monomers with and without the ED1 site can dimerize with similar efficiency. Analysis of reduced samples of Fn isolated from cells with anti-ED1 antibodies indicated the presence of both M1-M1 and M1-M2 dimers. In addition to being incorporated into extracellular matrix, ED1 + Fn was observed to be secreted in soluble form into the medium, potentially reflecting intravascular release of this protein by endothelial cells in vivo.

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