To test the possibility that epidermal cells use a common basement membrane protein whenever they spread, in vitro experiments were conducted using trypsin-dissociated guinea pig epidermal cells and the following proteins: human serum, bovine serum albumin, serum fibronectin, Type IV collagen, laminin, and epibolin (a recently described serum glycoprotein which supports epidermal cell spreading; Stenn, K.S., 1981, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 78:6907.). When the cells were added to media containing the specific proteins, all the tested proteins, except for serum albumin, supported cell spreading. Added to protein-coated substrates in defined media, the cells spread on fibronectin, epibolin, and laminin-Type IV collagen, but not on albumin or whole serum. In none of these experiments were the results qualitatively affected by the presence of cycloheximide. Antibodies to a specific protein blocked cell spreading on that protein but not on the other active proteins, e.g. whereas antibodies to epibolin blocked cell spreading on epibolin, they did not affect spreading on fibronectin, collagen, or laminin. In a second assay in which the cells were allowed to adhere to tissue culture plastic before the protein-containing medium was added, the cells spread only if the medium contained epibolin. Moreover, under these conditions the spreading activity of whole serum and plasma was neutralized by antiepibolin antibodies. These results support the conclusion that dissociated epidermal cells possess multiple spreading modes which depend, in part, on the proteins of the substrate, proteins of the medium, and the sequence of cell adhesion and protein exposure.

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