The plasma membrane of murine erythro-leukemia (MEL) cells contains a 140-kD protein that binds specifically to fibronectin. A 125I-labeled 140-kD protein from surface-labeled uninduced MEL cells was specifically bound by an affinity matrix that contained the 115-kD cell binding fragment of fibronectin, and specifically eluted by a synthetic peptide that has cell attachment-promoting activity. The loss of this protein during erythroid differentiation was correlated with loss of cellular adhesion to fibronectin. Both MEL cells and reticulocytes attached to the same site on fibronectin as do fibroblasts since adhesion of erythroid cells to fibronectin was specifically blocked by a monoclonal antibody directed against the cell-binding fragment of fibronectin and by a synthetic peptide containing the Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser sequence found in the cell-binding fragment of fibronectin. Erythroid cells attached specifically to surfaces coated either with the 115-kD cell-binding fragment of fibronectin or with the synthetic peptide-albumin complex. Thus, the erythroid 140-kD protein exhibits several properties in common with those described for the fibronectin receptor of fibroblasts. We propose that loss or modification of this protein at the cell surface is responsible for the loss of cellular adhesion to fibronectin during erythroid differentiation.

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