Matrix molecules such as fibronectin can promote cell attachment, spreading and focal adhesion formation. Although some interactions of fibronectin with cell surface receptors have now been identified, the consequent activation of intracellular messenger systems by cell/matrix interactions have still to be elucidated. We show here that the kinase inhibitors H7 and HA1004 reduce focal adhesion and stress fiber formation in response to fibronectin in a dose-dependent manner, and that activators of protein kinase C can promote their formation under conditions where they do not normally form. Fibroblasts spread within 1h on substrata composed of fibronectin and formed focal adhesions by 3h, as monitored by interference reflection microscopy (IRM) and by labeling for talin, vinculin and integrin beta 1 subunits. In addition, stress fibers were visible. When cells were allowed to spread for 1h and then treated with kinase inhibitors H7 and HA1004 for 2h, IRM indicated a reduction in focal adhesion formation at concentrations where protein kinase C (PKC) should be inhibited. In contrast, focal adhesions formed normally at concentrations of these inhibitors where cyclic AMP- or cyclic GMP-dependent kinases should be inactivated. Inhibition of PKC, but not that of cyclic AMP- or cyclic GMP-dependent kinases, also prevented the formation of stress fibers and induced a dispersal of talin and vinculin, but not integrin beta 1 subunits, from small condensations present at 1h. Consistent with the reduction in focal adhesion formation when PKC was inhibited, activation of PKC by 30 minutes of treatment with phorbol esters induced focal adhesion formation in cells spread for 3h on substrata composed of the cell-binding (RGD-containing) fragment of fibronectin, while untreated cells or those treated with inactive phorbol esters did not form these structures.

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