Attachment and neurite extension have been measured when Platt or La-N1 human neuroblastoma cells respond to tissue culture substrata coated with a panel of complementary fragments from the individual chains of human plasma (pFN) or cellular fibronectins (cFN) purified from thermolysin digests. A 110-kD fragment (f110), which contains the Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser sequence (RGDS)-dependent cell-binding domain but no heparin-binding domains and whose sequences are shared in common by both the alpha- and beta-subunits of pFN, facilitated attachment of cells that approached the level observed with either intact pFN or the heparan sulfate-binding platelet factor-4 (PF4). This attachment on f110 was resistant to RGDS-containing peptide in the medium. Neurite outgrowth was also maximal on f110, and half of these neurites were also resistant to soluble RGDS peptide. Treatment of cells with glycosaminoglycan lyases failed to alter these responses on f110. Therefore, there is a second "cell-binding" domain in the sequences represented by f110 that is not RGDS- or heparan sulfate-dependent and that facilitates stable attachment and some neurite outgrowth; this domain appears to be conformation-dependent. Comparisons were also made between two larger fragments generated from the two subunits of pFN-f145 from the alpha-subunit and f155 from the beta-subunit--both of which contain the RGDS-dependent cell-binding domain and the COOH-terminal heparin-binding domain but which differ in the former's containing some IIICS sequence at its COOH terminus and the latter's having an additional type III homology unit. Heparin-binding fragments (with no RGDS activity) of f29 and f38, derived from f145 or f155 of pFN, respectively, and having the same differences in sequence, were also compared with f44 + 47 having the "extra domain" characteristic of cFN. Attachment on f145 was slightly sensitive to soluble RGDS peptide; attachment on f155 was much more sensitive. There were also differences in the percentage of cells with neurites on f145 vs. f155 but neurites on either fragment were completely sensitive to RGDS peptide. Mixing of f29, f38, or PF4 with f110 could not reconstitute the activities demonstrated in f145 or f155, demonstrating that covalently linked sequences are critical in modulating these responses. However, mixing of f44 + 47 from cFN with f110 from pFN increased the sensitivity to RGDS peptide.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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