Heparin-binding forms of vitronectin, a multifunctional adhesive glycoprotein, are associated with the extracellular matrix (ECM) at different locations in the body and serve to promote cell adhesion and the regulation of pericellular proteolysis at sites of angiogenesis. In the present study we characterized the interactions of vitronectin with the counter-adhesive protein osteonectin (also termed SPARC or BM40). Osteonectin and vitronectin were both found associated with the ECM of cultured endothelial cells and were localized in vessel wall sections of kidney tissue. In vitro, the heparin-binding multimeric isoform of vitronectin bound to immobilized osteonectin in a saturable manner with half-maximal binding at 30–40 nM. Preincubation of plasma vitronectin with plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1), which provoked multimer formation, induced the binding of vitronectin to osteonectin. Binding was optimal at physiological ionic strength, and binary complexes were stabilized by tissue transglutaminase-mediated cross-linking. In a concentration-dependent fashion, PAI-1, CaCl2, heparin and heparan sulphate, but not other glycosaminoglycans, interfered with the binding of vitronectin to osteonectin. Using vitronectin-derived synthetic peptides as well as mutant forms of recombinant osteonectin, we found that the heparin-binding region of vitronectin interacted with the C-terminal region of osteonectin that contains a high-affinity Ca2+-binding site with counter-adhesive properties. Adhesion of cultured endothelial cells was partly abrogated by osteonectin and was correspondingly reversed by vitronectin in a concentration-dependent manner. These results indicate that specific interactions between vitronectin and osteonectin modulate cell adhesion and might thereby regulate endothelial cell function during angiogenesis.

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