We describe the construction in retroviral vectors and the expression of recombinant rat fibronectin (FN) cDNAs corresponding with the various alternatively spliced forms of FN. In NIH 3T3 cells, the exogenous rat FN subunits are efficiently secreted as heterodimers with endogenous mouse subunits. In contrast, in lymphoid WEHI231 cells, there is no endogenous FN synthesis and the recombinant FNs are secreted and can be purified as homogeneous proteins. We show that the purified recombinant FNs are biochemically and biologically functional. In basic assays for adhesion, spreading, cytoskeletal organization, and migration using various established adherent cell lines, different forms of FNs containing the different alternatively spliced segments show no marked differences in activity. We have used these recombinant FNs to investigate three systems in which earlier results had suggested potential differences between different forms of FN. First, all forms tested appear equally active in restoring normal morphology to a transformed cell line. Second, we detect minor differences in their ability to assemble into preexisting extracellular matrices. Finally, we report that only those forms of FN that contain the V segment will promote the spreading of a lymphoid cell line indicating that this segment confers additional biological functions for some cell types, a result that confirms and extends earlier data. These homogeneous, biologically active recombinant FNs will allow further studies of the role of the alternatively spliced segments of FN.
We describe the expression of the beta 1 subunit of avian integrin in rodent cells with the purpose of examining the structure-function relationships of various domains within this subunit. The exogenous subunit is efficiently and stably expressed in 3T3 cells, and it forms hybrid heterodimers with endogenous murine alpha subunits, including alpha 3 and alpha 5. These heterodimers are exported to the cell surface and localize in focal contacts where both extracellular matrix and cytoskeleton associate with the plasma membrane. Hybrid heterodimers consisting of exogenous beta 1 and endogenous alpha subunits bind effectively and specifically to columns of cell-binding fragments of fibronectin. The exogenous avian beta 1 subunit appears to function as well as its endogenous murine equivalent, consistent with the high degree of conservation noted previously for integrins. In contrast, expression of a mutant form of avian integrin beta 1 subunit lacking the cytoplasmic domain produces hybrid heterodimers which, while efficiently exported to the cell surface and still capable of binding fibronectin, do not localize efficiently in focal contacts. This further implicates the cytoplasmic domain of the beta 1 subunit in interactions required for cytoskeletal organization.