Hyaluronan (HA) and one of its cell binding sites, fibroblast hyaluronan binding protein (HABP), is shown to contribute to the regulation of 10T1/2 cell locomotion that contain an EJ-ras-metallothionein (MT-1) hybrid gene. Promotion of the ras-hybrid gene with zinc sulfate acutely stimulates, by 6-10-fold, cell locomotion. After 10 h, locomotion drops to two- to threefold above that of uninduced cells. Several observations indicate increased locomotion is partly regulated by HA. These include the ability of a peptide that specifically binds HA (HABR) to reduce locomotion, the ability of HA (0.001-0.1 micrograms/ml), added at 10-30 h after induction to stimulate locomotion back to the original, acute rate, and the ability of an mAb specific to a 56-kD fibroblast HABP to block locomotion. Further, both HA and HABP products are regulated by induction of the ras gene. The effect of exogenous HA is blocked by HABR, is dose-dependent and specific in that chondroitin sulfate or heparan have no significant effect. Stimulatory activity is retained by purified HA and lost upon digestion with Streptomyces hyaluronidase indicating that the activity of HA resides in its glycosaminoglycan chain. Uninduced cells are not affected by HA, HABR, or mAb and production of HA or HABP is not altered during the experimental period. These results suggest that ras-transformation activates an HA/HABP locomotory mechanism that forms part of an autocrine motility mechanism. Reliance of induced cells on HA/HABP for locomotion is transient and specific to the induced state.

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