Tenascin is an extracellular matrix glycoprotein expressed in association with mesenchymal-epithelial interactions during development and in the neovasculature and stroma of undifferentiated tumors. This selective expression of tenascin indicates a specific role in cell matrix interactions. We now show that tenascin can support the adhesion of a variety of cell types, including various human tumor cells, normal fibroblasts, and endothelial cells, all of which can attach to a substrate coated with tenascin. Detailed studies on the mechanism of the tenascin-promoted cell attachment were carried out with the human glioma cell line U251MG. The attachment of these cells and others to tenascin were inhibited specifically by peptides containing the RGD cell attachment signal. Affinity chromatography procedures similar to those that have been used to isolate other adhesion receptors yielded a heterodimeric cell surface protein which bound to a tenascin affinity matrix in an RGD-dependent fashion. One of the subunits of this putative tenascin receptor comigrates with the beta subunit of the fibronectin receptor in SDS-PAGE and cross reacts with antibodies prepared against the fibronectin receptor in immunoblotting. These results identify the tenascin receptor as a member of the fibronectin receptor family within the integrin superfamily of receptors. The cell attachment response on tenascin is distinctly different from that seen on fibronectin, suggesting that cell adhesion and motility may be modulated at those sites where tenascin is expressed in the extracellular matrix.

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