We have recently observed a transmembrane association between extracellular fibronectin (FN) fibers and elongated focal patches or fibers of vinculin (VN) in G1-arrested stationary Nil 8 hamster fibroblasts, with double-label immunofluorescence microscopy (Singer and Paradiso, 1981, Cell. 24:481-492). We hypothesized that these FN-VN complexes might correspond to focal contacts, the membrane sites that are probably mainly responsible for attaching cells to their substrata, because vinculin is often localized in focal contacts. However, because fibronectin-vinculin associations may not be restricted to the substrate adhesive surface of the cell, it became necessary to determine whether some or all of the various kinds of FN-VN complexes which we described are in proximity to the substrate. Using interference reflection optics and double-label immunofluorescence microscopy for fibronectin and vinculin, many elongated (up to 38 micrometer) FN-VN associations were found to be strikingly coincident with focal contacts in the perinuclear area of extremely flattened arrested Nil 8 fibroblasts in 0.3% fetal bovine serum (FBS). In addition, the long FN-VN adhesion complexes were precisely aligned with the major phase-dense stress fibers observed at the ventral surfaces of these stationary cells with phase contrast microscopy. Fibronectin was neither associated with vinculin-containing focal contacts of Nil 8 cells cultured in medium with 5% FBS nor with vinculin-negative focal contacts located at the extreme edges of stationary cells arrested in 0.3 FBS. Our time-course experiments suggest that early FN-VN lacking-focal contacts, which form at the cellular margins, develop into mature substrate adhesion complexes containing both fibronectin and vinculin, localized in the major stress fibers at the centers of sessile fibroblasts.

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