Several cell types display binding sites for [125I]urokinase (Vassalli, J.-D., D. Baccino, D. Belin. 1985. J. Cell Biol. 100:86-92) which in certain cases are occupied with endogenous urokinase. These sites appear to focus urokinase at cell surfaces and hence may participate in tissue matrix destruction and cell invasion. Recently Pöllänen et al. (1987) demonstrated that the cell surface urokinase of human fibroblasts and fibrosarcoma cells is deposited underneath the cells in strands, apparently at sites of cell-to-substratum contact. Here, using immunofluorescence double labeling, we show that the urokinase strands present on human foreskin fibroblasts are colocalized with strands of vinculin, an intracellular actin-binding protein that is deposited at cell-to-substratum focal adhesion sites. Thus, this indicates linkage of the plasminogen/plasmin system both to sites of cell adhesion and to the cytoskeleton. The urokinase strands on HT 1080 fibrosarcoma cells are more numerous and have shapes that are more tortuous than those on normal fibroblasts. In intact HT 1080 cells, colocalized vinculin strands are obscured by an intense background of soluble vinculin but are apparent on isolated ventral plasma membranes. Certain properties of the urokinase strands suggest that they are related to the [125I]urokinase-binding sites that have been described by several groups: (a) incubating fibroblasts with dexamethasone for 48 h or at pH 3 at 5 degrees C for 10 min greatly decreases the number and intensity of the urokinase strands; (b) strands reappear when glucocorticoid-treated cells are incubated with exogenous 54-kD (but not 35-kD) urokinase, and this process is inhibited by a previously described 16-amino acid peptide that blocks [125I]urokinase binding to the cells.

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