Thrombospondin is a 420,000-D glycoprotein that has recently been shown to have several properties in common with the members of a class of adhesive proteins. To characterize further the adhesive properties of thrombospondin, we have studied its ability to support cell attachment. Thrombospondin adsorbed to plastic dishes supports the attachment of human endothelial and smooth muscle cells and the monocyte-like cell line (U937) as well as normal rat kidney cells. The majority of attached cells do not spread on the solid-phase thrombospondin. The attachment of all four cell types to thrombospondin is abolished if the assay is performed in the presence of EGTA, although the cells still attach to fibronectin. If thrombospondin is adsorbed to the dishes in the presence of EGTA and then washed with buffer containing calcium before addition of the cells, attachment is still markedly inhibited, indicating that calcium affects the conformation and function of thrombospondin. Attachment of all four cell types is also markedly inhibited by the synthetic peptides gly-arg-gly-asp-ser-pro (GRG-DSP) and gly-arg-gly-asp-ala-cys (GRGDAC) but not by the control peptide gly-arg-gly-glu-ser-pro (GRG-ESP). Affinity chromatography of n-octylglucoside extracts of surface-labeled endothelial cells or smooth muscle cells on thrombospondin-Sepharose and GRG-DSP-Affigel columns was used to identify an integrin complex related to glycoprotein IIb-IIIa as an RGD-dependent receptor for thrombospondin. In addition, a monoclonal antibody (LM609) that blocks attachment of endothelial cells to vitronectin, fibrinogen, and von Willebrand factor also inhibits attachment of endothelial cells to thrombospondin. These data indicate that the attachment of cells to thrombospondin is mediated by RGD and calcium-dependent mechanisms and is consistent with the hypothesis that the GRGDAC sequence in thrombospondin is a site for interaction with an integrin receptor of the beta 3 subclass.
Culture conditions that favor rapid multiplication of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUV-EC) also support long-term serial propagation of the cells. This is routinely achieved when HUV-EC are grown in Medium 199 (M-199) supplemented with fetal bovine serum (FBS) and endothelial cell growth factor (ECGF), on a human fibronectin (HFN) matrix. The HUV-EC can shift from a proliferative to an organized state when the in vitro conditions are changed from those favoring low density proliferation to those supporting high density survival. When ECGF and HFN are omitted, cultures fail to achieve confluence beyond the first or second passage: the preconfluent cultures organize into tubular structures after 4-6 wk. Some tubes become grossly visible and float in the culture medium, remaining tethered to the plastic dish at either end of the tube. On an ultrastructural level, the tubes consist of cells, held together by junctional complexes, arranged so as to form a lumen. The smallest lumens are formed by one cell folding over to form a junction with itself. The cells contain Weibel-Palade bodies and factor VIII-related antigen. The lumens contain granular, fibrillar and amorphous debris. Predigesting the HFN matrix with trypsin (10 min, 37 degrees C) or plasmin significantly accelerates tube formation. Thrombin and plasminogen activator had no apparent effect. Disruption of the largest tubes with trypsin/EDTA permits the cells to revert to a proliferative state if plated on HFN, in M-199, FBS, and ECGF. These observations indicate that culture conditions that do not favor proliferation permit attainment of a state of nonterminal differentiation (organization) by the endothelial cell. Furthermore, proteolytic modification of the HFN matrix may play an important role in endothelial organization.
Human umbilical vein (HUV) endothelial cells were grown for 15 to 21 passages at a split ratio of 1:5 (at least 27 population doublings) on a human fibronectin (HFN) matrix in Medium 199 supplemented with fetal bovine serum (FBS) and endothelial-cell growth factor (ECGF). This system also permitted the growth of HUV endothelial cells at cell densities as low as 1.25 cells/cm2. In addition to delaying the premature senescence of HUV endothelial cells, ECGF also reduced the serum requirement for low-density HUV endothelial-cell growth; 2.5% serum and ECGF yields half-maximum growth as compared to high serum controls. Significant HUV endothelial-cell growth was also observed in medium supplemented with either ovine hypophysectomized (HYPOX) serum, plasma-derived serum (PDS), or HYPOX-PDS in the presence of ECGF, suggesting that neither the pituitary nor the platelet contributes to HUV endothelial-cell growth.