Interaction with extracellular matrix can trigger a variety of responses by cells including changes in specific gene expression and cell differentiation. The mechanism by which cell surface events are coupled to the transcriptional machinery is not understood, however, proteins localized at sites of cell-substratum contact are likely to function as signal transducers. We have recently purified and characterized a low abundance adhesion plaque protein called zyxin (Crawford, A. W., and M. C. Beckerle. 1991. J. Biol. Chem. 266:5847-5853; Crawford, A. W., J. W. Michelsen, and M. C. Beckerle. 1992. J. Cell Biol. 116:1381-1393). We have now isolated and sequenced zyxin cDNA and we report here that zyxin exhibits an unusual proline-rich NH2-terminus followed by three tandemly arrayed LIM domains. LIM domains have previously been identified in proteins that play important roles in transcriptional regulation and cellular differentiation. LIM domains have been proposed to coordinate metal ions and we have demonstrated by atomic absorption spectroscopy that purified zyxin binds zinc, a result consistent with the idea that zyxin has zinc fingers. In addition, we have discovered that zyxin interacts in vitro with a 23-kD protein that also exhibits LIM domains. Microsequence analysis has revealed that the 23-kD protein (or cCRP) is the chicken homologue of the human cysteine-rich protein (hCRP). By double-label indirect immunofluorescence, we found that zyxin and cCRP are extensively colocalized in chicken embryo fibroblasts, consistent with the idea that they interact in vivo. We conclude that LIM domains are zinc-binding sequences that may be involved in protein-protein interactions. The demonstration that two cytoskeletal proteins, zyxin and cCRP, share a sequence motif with proteins important for transcriptional regulation raises the possibility that zyxin and cCRP are components of a signal transduction pathway that mediates adhesion-stimulated changes in gene expression.

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