It is demonstrated here that cultured fibroblasts release into their medium a nondialyzable, protease-sensitive factor(s) capable of promoting the adhesion and spreading of virus-transformed rat fibroblasts on a plastic substratum. A relatively sensitive biological assay is described for quantitation of the adhesion-promoting factor (APF) activity in serum-free, conditioned medium harvested from the cultures. Evidence is presented which indicates that the primary mode of action of the APF is by binding to and modifying the properties of the substratum. Conditioned media harvested after 24 h of incubation in similarly populated cultures of normal fibroblasts of diverse animal species exhibited similar levels of APF activity. However, conditioned media obtained from Rous sarcoma virus (Prague strain)-transformed and avian sarcoma virus B77-transformed rat fibroblasts exhibited three- to sixfold lower levels of APF activity than media conditioned in parallel cultures of heterologous or homologous normal fibroblasts. Cultivation of B77 virus-transformed rat cells in the presence of dibutyryl cyclic AMP and theophylline led to as much as a sevenfold increase in the level of APF activity appearing in the culture medium, with a concomitant increase in the adhesiveness of the cells to the culture substratum. The results support the role of extracellular macromolecules in cell to substratum adhesion. It is postulated that the reduced adhesiveness of transformed cells to a substratum may be at least partially owing to a deficiency in the production and/or release of APF-like macromolecules.

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