Fibronectin isoforms are generated by the alternative splicing of a primary transcript derived from a single gene. In rat at least three regions of the molecule are involved: EIIIA, EIIIB, and V. This study investigated the splicing patterns of these regions during development and aging, by means of ribonuclease protection analysis. Between fetal and adult rat, the extent of inclusion of the EIIIA and/or EIIIB region in fibronectin mRNA varied according to the type of tissue analyzed; but the inclusion of the V region, and in particular the V25 alternative variant, was significantly higher in all fetal than in adult tissues. These data suggest a crucial role of the V25 variant, possibly related to its interaction with the alpha 4 beta 1 integrin receptor during development. On the other hand, during aging, the only significant change observed in the splicing pattern was a decrease in the EIIIA variant in brain. The high inclusion levels of the EIIIA and EIIIB regions in young adult brain suggest that these segments may play an important role in differentiated brain tissue. The decreasing levels of inclusion of the EIIIA segment in brain fibronectin mRNA during aging may be an age-related marker with functional consequences.

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