• Peri-implantation embryogenesis;
  • Trophoblast cells;
  • Recombinant proteins;
  • Integrins


To investigate the mechanism of trophoblast adhesion to fibronectin, we cultured blastocysts in serum-free medium on proteolytic fibronectin fragments containing its major functional domains, and localized fibronectin-binding integrins in outgrowing trophoblast cells by immunofluorescent staining. Outgrowth comparable to that obtained with intact fibronectin was observed using a 120 kD chymotryptic fragment containing the central cell-binding domain (FN-120) and the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) recognition sequence. A 40 kD COOH-terminal chymotryptic fragment of fibronectin containing both a heparin-binding region and an alternate (non-RGD) cell-binding site was inactive in supporting trophoblast adhesion. Three synthetic peptides derived from the heparin-binding domain, including the CS1 alternate cell-binding site, were also unable to promote trophoblast cell adhesion. A 75 kD recombinant protein, ProNectin F, containing 13 copies of the cell recognition epitope of fibronectin, Val-Thr-Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser-Pro-Ala-Ser, vigorously supported blastocyst outgrowth. Blastocyst outgrowth was not significantly different when surfaces were precoated with cellular fibronectin, which contains an alternatively spliced type III repeat and is the form actually encountered in vivo. Several putative fibronectin receptors were localized in trophoblast outgrowths by immunofluorescent labeling. Antibodies reactive with integrin subunits α3, α5, αllb, αv, β1 and β3, but not α4, all bound to trophoblast cells. Antibodies raised against either the β1 or β3 integrin subunits significantly inhibited fibronectin-mediated outgrowth. These findings demonstrate the key role of the central cell-binding domain of fibronectin in trophoblast adhesion, and suggest four RGD-binding integrins, α3β1, α5β1, αllbβ3, and αvβ3, that could mediate trophoblast adhesion in vitro and may play an important role during implantation. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.