The organisation of the actin cytoskeleton was examined in H9c2 and human intestinal smooth muscle cells adherent on fibronectin or thrombospondin-1. Whereas cells adherent on fibronectin adopted a polygonal shape and rapidly assembled prominent stress fibres and focal contacts, cells adherent on thrombospondin-1 assumed a more irregular morphology with large lamellae containing radial actin microspikes. Focal contacts were not detected in cells adherent on thrombospondin-1, as determined by indirect immunofluorescence staining for vinculin and other focal contact components. Instead, the radial microspikes stained positively for the actin-bundling protein, 55 kDa/fascin, and myosins. In cells adherent on fibronectin, 55 kDa/fascin immunoreactivity was diffuse and tended to be concentrated in the perinuclear region. In long-term adherent cells cultured in serum-containing medium, 55 kDa/fascin was detected in membrane ruffles, in stress fibres and in the perinuclear region. The microspikes formed within 40 minutes of plating cells on thrombospondin-1 and remained present when cells were treated with sodium orthovandate and hydrogen peroxide to increase intracellular phosphotyrosine levels. Indeed, although vanadate-treated cells tended to retract, the microspikes became more prominent and showed an increased intensity of staining for fascin. Under these conditions, a proportion of the microspikes did not appear to be in contact with the substratum: these spikes stained weakly for focal adhesion kinase, talin and vinculin. Cells treated with genistein also spread and formed fascin-containing microspikes which tended to be more slender than those of control cells. In contrast, cells adherent on fibronectin displayed a complex rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton and a transient enrichment of 55 kDa/fascin-containing structures at the cell surface when treated with sodium orthovanadate and hydrogen peroxide. These observations indicate that cell interactions with fibronectin or thrombospondin-1 send distinct organisational signals to the actin cytoskeleton and may offer a mechanistic framework for further investigations of the anti-adhesive properties of thrombospondin-1.

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