Primary cultures of hepatocytes of rats and hamsters were established and examined for the synthesis and secretion of fibronectin. Hepatocytes of both species secreted fibronectin as a soluble dimeric protein which could be purified by its affinity for gelatin and using specific antisera. Plasma and cellular fibronectins could be clearly resolved on two-dimensional gels. In both species, the majority of the fibronectin secreted by hepatocytes was of the plasma type, as shown by analyses on one- and two-dimensional gels. The secretion of plasma fibronectin increased with time in culture, both in absolute terms and relative to the secretion of albumin. Even during the first day of culture, the secretion of fibronectin relative to that of albumin appeared to be sufficient to account for the relative levels of these two proteins in plasma. Hepatocytes of both species secreted preferentially the chain of plasma fibronectin with higher apparent molecular weight, although the faster migrating chain was also secreted. In addition, hamster hepatocytes cultured for 2 or more days appeared to secrete a cellular form of fibronectin. Possible origins for the different chain types of cellular and plasma fibronectins are discussed.
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