We used antibodies against the alpha subunits of the human fibronectin receptor (FNR) and vitronectin receptor (VNR) to localize simultaneously FNR and VNR at major substrate adhesion sites of fibroblasts and melanoma cells with double-label immunofluorescence microscopy. In early (2-6-h) serum-containing cultures, both FNR and VNR coaccumulated in focal contacts detected by interference reflection microscopy. Under higher resolution immunoscanning electron microscopy, FNR and VNR were also observed to be distributed randomly on the dorsal cell surface. As fibronectin-containing extracellular matrix fibers accumulated beneath the cells at 24 h, FNR became concentrated at contacts with these fibers and was no longer detected at focal contacts. VNR was not observed at matrix contacts but remained strikingly localized in focal contacts of the 24-h cells. Since focal contacts represent the sites of strongest cell-to-substrate adhesion, these results suggest that FNR and VNR together play critical roles in the maintenance of stable contacts between the cell and its substrate. In addition, the accumulation of FNR at extracellular matrix contacts implies that this receptor might also function in the process of cellular migration along fibronectin-containing matrix cables. To define the factors governing accumulation of FNR and VNR at focal contacts, fibroblasts in serum-free media were plated on substrates coated with purified ligands. Fibronectin-coated surfaces fostered accumulation of FNR but not VNR at focal contacts. On vitronectin-coated surfaces, or substrata derivatized with a tridecapeptide containing the cell attachment sequence Arg-Gly-Asp, both FNR and VNR became concentrated at focal contacts. These observations suggest that the availability of ligand is critical to the accumulation of FNR and VNR at focal contacts, and that FNR might also recognize substrate-bound vitronectin.

This content is only available as a PDF.