We have studied the expression of fibulin in cultured fibroblasts and determined its primary structure by cDNA cloning. Our results show that fibulin is a secreted glycoprotein that becomes incorporated into a fibrillar extracellular matrix when expressed by cultured cells or added exogenously to cell monolayers. In addition, we find that fibulin is present in plasma at a level of 33 +/- 3 micrograms/ml. Sequencing of multiple fibulin cDNAs indicates that a process of alternative splicing results in the expression of three fibulin transcripts. The transcripts encode overlapping polypeptides differing only in carboxy-terminal segments. Common to the three predicted forms of fibulin is a unique 537-amino acid-long cysteine-rich polypeptide and a 29-residue signal peptide. The amino-terminal portion of fibulin contains a repeated element with potential disulfide loop structure resembling that of the complement component anaphylatoxins C3a, C4a, and C5a as well as proteins of the albumin gene family. The bulk of the remaining portion of the molecule is a series of nine EGF-like repeats.

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