Components of the extracellular matrix have been shown to modulate the interaction of endothelial cells with their microenvironment. Here we report that thrombospondin (TSP), an extracellular matrix component, induces adhesion and spreading of murine lung capillary (LE-II) and bovine aortic (BAEC) endothelial cells. This TSP-induced spreading was inhibited by heparin and fucoidan, known to bind the amino-terminal globular domain of the molecule. In addition, endothelial cells were induced to migrate by a gradient of soluble TSP (chemotaxis). The chemotactic response was inhibited by heparin and fucoidan, as well as by the mAb A2.5, which also binds to the amino-terminal domain. These data are in agreement with our previous observation that the TSP aminoterminal heparin binding region is responsible for the induction of tumor cell spreading and chemotactic motility. The inhibition of chemotaxis and spreading by antibodies against the beta 3 but not the beta 1 chain of the integrin receptor points to a role for the integrins in the interaction of endothelial cells with TSP. We also found that TSP modulates endothelial cell growth. When added to quiescent LE-II cells, it inhibited the mitogenic effects of serum and the angiogenic factor bFGF, in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibition of DNA synthesis detected in the mitogenic assay resulted in a true inhibition of BAEC and LE-II cell growth, as assessed by proliferation assay. This work indicates that TSP affects endothelial cell adhesion, spreading, motility and growth. TSP, therefore, has the potential to modulate the angiogenic process.

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