Initial adhesion of human fibroblasts in serum-free medium: Possible role of secreted fibronectin

Frederick Grinnell, Marian K. Feld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Experiments were carried out to test the hypothesis that the initial attachment and spreading of human fibroblasts in serum-free medium occurs to cell fibronectin which has been secreted and adsorbed on the substratum surface. Human skin fibroblasts attached and spread on tissue culture substrata in serum-free medium in 60 min. When potential protein adsorption sites on the substratum were covered with bovine serum albumin before initial human fibroblast attachment, their subsequent attachment to the substratum was prevented. When substratum adsorption sites were covered immediately after initial attachment, subsequent cell spreading was prevented. The distribution of fibronectin on human fibroblast surfaces during initial attachment and spreading was studied by indirect immunofluorescence analysis using a monospecific anti-cold-insoluble globulin antiserum. The initial appearance (10 min) of fibronectin was in spots over the entire cell surface. Concomitant with human fibroblast spreading, the random distribution of sites disappeared, and most fibronectin was subsequently observed in spots at the cell substratum interface (60 min). A fibrillar pattern of fibronectin appeared later (2-8 hr). The sites beneath the cells could be visualized as footprints on the substratum following treatment of the attached human fibroblasts with 0.1 M NaOH. A second fluorescence pattern of fibronectin secreted on the substratum was characterized by a diffuse halo around the cells and a very faint, diffuse staining elsewhere on the substratum. Another cell type (baby hamster kidney cells) was used to assay biologically for the presence or absence of the factor secreted by human fibroblasts on the substratum. Human fibroblasts were found to secrete an adhesion factor for baby hamster kidney cells onto the substratum in a time- and temperature-dependent fashion, and immunological studies indicated that the factor secreted by human fibroblasts was cross-reactive with cold-insoluble globulin, the plasma form of fibronectin. The conditioning factor secreted by the human fibroblasts was also found to be an attachment and spreading factor for human fibroblasts in experiments measuring human fibroblast adhesion to fibronectin footprints of human fibroblasts. Substratum-adsorbed cold-insoluble globulin was also found to be an attachment and spreading factor for human fibroblasts. Based upon the timing of appearance of conditioning factors on the substratum and the immunofluorescence patterns, it seems that the diffusely organized fibronectin on the substratum constitutes the sites to which cell attachment occurs. The bright spots of fibronectin that appear beneath the cells may represent fibronectin reorganization during cell spreading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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