Fibronectin contains at least two domains that support cell adhesion. One is the central cell-binding domain that is recognized by a variety of cell types, including fibroblasts. The second, originally identified by its ability to support melanoma cell adhesion, is located in the alternatively spliced type III connecting segment (IIICS). Using specific adhesive ligands and inhibitory probes, we have examined the role of each of these domains in fibronectin-mediated neurite extension of neurons from chick embryo dorsal root and sympathetic ganglia. In studies using explanted ganglia, both fl3, a 75-kD tryptic fragment of human plasma fibronectin containing the central cell-binding domain, and CS1-IgG, a synthetic peptide-IgG conjugate containing the principal cell adhesion site from the IIICS, supported neurite outgrowth after adsorption onto the substrate. The maximal activities of fl3 and CSl-IgG were 45-55% and 25-30% that of intact fibronectin, respectively. Co-coating of the substrate with f13 and CS1-IgG produced an additive stimulation of neurite outgrowth, the extent of which approached that obtained with fibronectin. Similar results were obtained with purified neuronal cell preparations isolated by tryptic dissociation of dorsal root ganglia. In complementary studies, blockage of the adhesive function of either the central cell-binding domain (with mAb 333, an antiadhesive monoclonal antibody) or the IIICS (with CS1 peptide), resulted in approximately 60 or 30% reduction in fibronectin-mediated neurite outgrowth, respectively. When tested in combination, the inhibitory activities of mAb 333 and CSl were additive. From these results, we conclude that neurons from the peripheral nervous system can extend neurites on both the central cell-binding domain and the IIICS region of fibronectin, and that these cells are therefore the first normal, embryonic cell type shown to adhere to the IIICS. These results suggest that spatiotemporal fluctuations in the alternative mRNA splicing of the IIICS region of fibronectin may be important in regulation of cell adhesive events during development of the peripheral nervous system.

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