Tenascin is a large extracellular matrix (ECM) glycoprotein found in restricted tissue locations in the adult organism. It is copiously synthesized in regenerative organs or regenerating tissues and by certain tumors. We have analyzed the expression of tenascin in human long term bone marrow cultures as well as in cryostat sections of native bone marrow and found it strongly expressed by the stromal cells of the microenvironment. Two different protein subunits of 280 and 220 kD were detected by immunoblotting. These two forms are derived most likely from two different mRNA splice variants of 6 and 8 kb detected by Northern blotting. The in vivo analysis of cryostat sections showed a codistribution with other ECM molecules such as fibronectin and collagen type III in the microenvironment surrounding the maturing hematopoietic cells. Using two independent cell adhesion assays tenascin could be shown to function as a cytoadhesive molecule for hematopoietic cells. These data suggest a direct involvement of tenascin in the retention of hematopoietic progenitor cells in the stroma.

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