The long arm of laminin, which binds heparin and cells, consists of three polypeptides (A, B1, and B2) joined in a coiled-coil rod attached to a terminal A chain globule (G). Previously, we found that recombinant globular domain (rG) supported heparin and myoblast binding (Yurchenco, P. D., U. Sung, M. D. Ward, Y. Yamada, and J. J. O'Rear. 1993. J. Biol. Chem. 268:8356-8365). To further analyze long arm functions, we expressed the distal moiety of the mouse laminin A chain extending from the middle of the rod to the carboxyl terminus (rAiG). This larger glycoprotein, secreted by Sf9 insect cells infected with recombinant baculovirus, was intercalated in vitro into the corresponding disulfide-linked B chain segments of laminin fragment E8 (distal long arm rod and proximal globule). The hybrid molecule (B-rAiG) possessed a structure similar to laminin long arm as judged by electron microscopy and limited proteolysis. By joining rAiG with E8-B chains, the affinity of G domain for heparin decreased from that observed with rAiG and rG to one similar to native protein. HT1080 cells adhered to E8, rAiG, and B-rAiG, less well to rG, and not to denatured E8/B-rAiG, the A and B chain moieties of E8, or to a mixture of rG and E8-B chains. Cell adhesion to E8 and B-rAiG, in contrast to rAiG, was inhibited with antibodies specific for alpha 6 and beta 1 integrin chains. Since intercalation (a) restored a conformationally dependent alpha 6 beta 1 integrin recognition site present in native protein, (b) inactivated a cryptic cell binding activity in the A chain, and (c) inhibited a heparin binding site present in proximal G domain, we conclude that biological activities of laminin are different from that of its isolated subunits.

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