Most of the proposed functions for fibronectin involve its interaction with cells, yet the molecular nature of cellular fibronectin binding site(s) has remained obscure. Thrombin induces saturable platelet binding sites for plasma fibronectin and concurrently stimulates surface expression of a number of platelet alpha-granule constituents including thrombospondin and fibrin which are known to interact with fibronectin. To test the hypothesis that these (or other alpha-granule proteins) mediate plasma fibronectin binding, we used platelets of patients with the Gray Platelet Syndrome. These cells were deficient in thrombospondin, beta-thromboglobulin, platelet factor 4, fibronectin, and fibrinogen as measured in radioimmunoassay. They also had reduced von Willebrand factor content as judged by immunofluorescence. At plasma fibronectin inputs from 0.03 to 3 times the apparent kilodalton, these Gray platelets bound virtually identical quantities of fibronectin as normal cells. Thus, platelets containing 1,500 molecules of thrombospondin per platelet could bind more than 100,000 molecules of plasma fibronectin per cell following thrombin stimulation. These data preclude any simple model in which newly surface expressed thrombospondin (or other alpha-granule protein) functions as the major thrombin-stimulated plasma fibronectin receptor in this cell type.

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