Thrombospondin is a 420,000-D glycoprotein that has recently been shown to have several properties in common with the members of a class of adhesive proteins. To characterize further the adhesive properties of thrombospondin, we have studied its ability to support cell attachment. Thrombospondin adsorbed to plastic dishes supports the attachment of human endothelial and smooth muscle cells and the monocyte-like cell line (U937) as well as normal rat kidney cells. The majority of attached cells do not spread on the solid-phase thrombospondin. The attachment of all four cell types to thrombospondin is abolished if the assay is performed in the presence of EGTA, although the cells still attach to fibronectin. If thrombospondin is adsorbed to the dishes in the presence of EGTA and then washed with buffer containing calcium before addition of the cells, attachment is still markedly inhibited, indicating that calcium affects the conformation and function of thrombospondin. Attachment of all four cell types is also markedly inhibited by the synthetic peptides gly-arg-gly-asp-ser-pro (GRG-DSP) and gly-arg-gly-asp-ala-cys (GRGDAC) but not by the control peptide gly-arg-gly-glu-ser-pro (GRG-ESP). Affinity chromatography of n-octylglucoside extracts of surface-labeled endothelial cells or smooth muscle cells on thrombospondin-Sepharose and GRG-DSP-Affigel columns was used to identify an integrin complex related to glycoprotein IIb-IIIa as an RGD-dependent receptor for thrombospondin. In addition, a monoclonal antibody (LM609) that blocks attachment of endothelial cells to vitronectin, fibrinogen, and von Willebrand factor also inhibits attachment of endothelial cells to thrombospondin. These data indicate that the attachment of cells to thrombospondin is mediated by RGD and calcium-dependent mechanisms and is consistent with the hypothesis that the GRGDAC sequence in thrombospondin is a site for interaction with an integrin receptor of the beta 3 subclass.

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