The platelet and extracellular matrix glycoprotein thrombospondin interacts with various types of cells as both a positive and negative modulator of cell adhesion, motility, and proliferation. These effects may be mediated by binding of thrombospondin to cell surface receptors or indirectly by binding to other extracellular matrix components. The role of peptide sequences from the type I repeats of thrombospondin in its interaction with fibronectin were investigated. Fibronectin bound specifically to the peptide Gly-Gly-Trp-Ser-His-Trp from the second type I repeat of thrombospondin but not to the corresponding peptides from the first or third repeats or flanking sequences from the second repeat. The two Trp residues and the His residue were essential for binding, and the two Gly residues enhanced the affinity of binding. Binding of the peptide and intact thrombospondin to fibronectin were inhibited by the gelatin-binding domain of fibronectin. The peptide specifically inhibited binding of fibronectin to gelatin or type I collagen and inhibited fibronectin-mediated adhesion of breast carcinoma and melanoma cells to gelatin or type I collagen substrates but not direct adhesion of the cells to fibronectin, which was inhibited by the peptide Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser. Thus, the fibronectin-binding thrombospondin peptide Gly-Gly-Trp-Ser-His-Trp is a selective inhibitor of fibronectin-mediated interactions of cells with collagen in the extracellular matrix.

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