The fibronexus ( FNX ), a very close transmembrane association of individual extracellular fibronectin fibers and actin microfilaments, was found previously at the substrate-binding surface of fibroblasts in tissue culture (Singer, 1. 1., 1979, Cell, 16:675-685). To determine whether the fibronexus might be involved in fibroblast adhesion during wound healing in vivo, we looked for co-localization of actin and fibronectin in granulation tissue formed within full-thickness guinea pig skin wounds. At 7-9 d, most of the actin fibers were observed to be coincident with congruent fibronectin fibers using double-label immunofluorescence microscopy. These fibronectin and actin fibers were co-localized at the myofibroblast surface surrounding the nucleus, and along attenuated myofibroblast processes which extended deeply into the extracellular matrix. This conspicuous co-distribution of fibronectin and actin fibers prompted us to look for fibronexuses at the myofibroblast surface with electron microscopy. We observed three kinds of FNXs : (a) tandem associations between the termini of individual extracellular fibronectin fibers and actin microfilament bundles at the tips of elongate myofibroblast processes, (b) plaque-like and, (c) track-like FNXs , in which parallel fibronectin and actin fibers were connected by perpendicular transmembranous fibrils. Goniometric studies on the external and internal components of these cross-linking fibrils showed that their membrane-associated ends are probably co-axial. Using immunoelectron microscopy on ultrathin cryosections, we confirmed that the densely staining external portion of these various FNXs does indeed contain fibronectin. The finding that these FNXs appear to connect collagen fibers to intracellular bundles of actin microfilaments is particularly significant. Our studies strongly suggest that the fibronexus is an important in vivo cell surface adhesion site functioning in wound repair, and perhaps within fibronectin-rich tissues during embryogenesis, tumor growth, and inflammation.

This content is only available as a PDF.