The role of the carbohydrate residues of fibronectin concerning the specificities of that glycoprotein to interact with fibroblastic cell surfaces, gelatin, and heparin was examined. Tunicamycin was used to produce carbohydrate-depleted fibronectin; it was synthesized by cultured fibroblasts. Unglycosylated and glycosylated fibronectins were analyzed for their ability to bind gelatin and heparin, using affinity columns. Fibronectin-coated surfaces were used to quantitatively measure cell adhesion and spreading. The results showed that the lack of carbohydrates significantly increased the interaction of the protein with gelatin and markedly enhanced its ability to promote adhesion and spreading of fibroblasts. In contrast, the binding of fibronectin to heparin was not influenced by glycosylation. The composite data indicate that the Asn-linked oligosaccharides of fibronectin act as modulators of biological functions of the glycoprotein.

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