Different fibronectin (FN) variants arise from the single gene transcript alternatively spliced in a tissue-specific manner (Hynes, R. O. 1985. Annu. Rev. Cell Biol. 1:67-90; Owens, R. J., A. R. Kornblihtt, and F. E. Baralle. 1986. Oxf. Surv. Eurcaryotic Genes. 3:141-160). We used mAb IST-9, specific for extra domain A (ED-A) FN sequence, and cDNA probe to ED-A exon to determine whether ED-A is present in FN synthesized by vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and, if so, whether expression of ED-A is SMC phenotype dependent. ED-A-containing FN (A-FN) was not revealed in tunica media of human arteries and normal rat aorta by immunofluorescence and immunoblotting techniques. A cDNA probe to ED-A exon did not hybridize with RNA isolated from human aortic media. A positive reaction with IST-9 was observed in (a) diffuse intimal thickening and atherosclerotic plaque from human arteries; (b) experimentally induced intimal thickening in rat aorta; and (c) cultured vascular SMCs. A-FN mRNA was present in the RNA preparation from human aortic intima as judged by hybridization with cDNA probe to ED-A. On the other hand, an mAb interacting with an epitope common for all FN variants revealed FN in both intima and media of human arteries and in the normal rat aorta. A cDNA probe to a sequence shared by all FN variants hybridized with RNA from both intima and media of human aorta, though the level of expression was higher in intima. The data suggest that ED-A exon is omitted during splicing of the FN mRNA precursor in medial SMCs while the expression of A-FN is characteristic of "modulated" SMCs--those of intimal thickenings, of atherosclerotic lesions, and growing in culture.

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