We report the effect of Fab' (anti-60k) to a 60,000 mol wt gelatin binding domain of fibronectin (1981, J. Biol. Chem. 256:5583) on diploid fibroblast (IMR-90) extracellular fibronectin and collagen organization. Anti-60k Fab' did not inhibit IMR-90 attachment or proliferation in fibronectin-depleted medium. Fibroblasts cultured with preimmune Fab' deposited a dense extracellular network of fibronectin and collagen detectable by immunofluorescence, while anti-60k Fab' prevented extracellular collagen and fibronectin fibril deposition. Matrix fibronectin and collagen deposition remained decreased in cultures containing anti-60k Fab' until cells became bilayered or more dense, when fibronectin and collagen began to appear in lower cell layers. Anti-60k Fab' added to confluent cultures 24 h before fixation and staining had no effect on matrix fibronectin or collagen, so anti-60k Fab' did not simply block immunostaining. Confluent cultures grown in anti-60k Fab' and labeled for 24 h with [3H]proline incorporated identical amounts of [3H]proline and [3H]hydroxyproline, but [3H]hydroxyproline deposition in the cell layer was significantly decreased by anti-60k Fab' (P less than 0.01). Extracellular matrix collagen does not appear to form a scaffold for fibronectin deposition, as neither gelatin nor a gelatin-binding fragment of plasma fibronectin inhibited deposition of matrix fibronectin. Our results suggest that interstitial collagens and fibronectin interact to form a fibrillar component of the extracellular matrix, and that fibronectin is required for normal collagen organization and deposition by fibroblasts in vitro. Domain-specific antibodies to fibronectin are powerful tools to study the biological role of fibronectin in extracellular matrix organization and other processes.

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