Laminin is a major glycoprotein of the basement membrane. Although its precise localization and orientation within this structure is unknown, it is presumably anchored to other macromolecules such as type IV collagen or proteoheparan sulfate. In vitro, laminin has the ability to self-assemble and to bind to type IV collagen molecules at distinct sites. To identify more precisely the domains of the complex, cross-shaped laminin molecule that are involved in these interactions, images of laminin-laminin dimers and laminin-type IV collagen complexes obtained by the rotary shadowing method were analyzed. We observed that the complex domain at the end of the long arm of laminin is predominantly involved in these interactions. By using Fab fragments of antibodies specific for a peptide fragment derived from this complex domain, it is shown that laminin self-assembly is inhibited in their presence, as measured by turbidity and by electron microscopy. In addition, these antibodies inhibit the specific interaction of laminin with type IV collagen. These data suggest that the complex domain at the end of the long arm of laminin contains binding sites of potential importance for the assembly of basement membranes.

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