If the extracellular matrix were a construction site, tenascin-C could be seen as the scaffold upon which the weaving of fibronectin threads, or fibrils, is done. "Tenascin-C has multiple arms, and we have shown that it has multiple binding sites for fibronectin," Midwood says. "In this way, it can bind to many fibronectin fibrils at once and help to form the whole tissue by linking the fibrils together. Then, when the repair is done, the scaffolding is taken down."
Midwood and To systematically determined where tenascin-C and fibronectin bind together. They also identified small parts of tenascin-C, known as domains, that can bind to only one fibronectin fibril apiece.
"The small domains act as caps of the scaffold. No more fibronectin fibrils can bind once these caps are in place," Midwood says. So, in essence, they found that certain pieces of tenascin-C determine when fibril building should stop once enough, but not too much, tissue is made.
The findings could be especially useful for creating therapies for conditions in which there is aberrant extracellular matrix deposition, such as in cancers, fibrotic conditions or chronic non-healing wounds, adds To.
In abnormal conditions, such as in the case of a tumor cell, "the home that's made of fibronectin helps it to survive, shelters it and provides signals that enable it to proliferate," says Midwood. "As the tumor thrives, the home keeps on growing, expanding to destroy the existing neighborhood."
Similarly, in fibrotic diseases, tissue rebuilding rages out of control with too much fibronectin assembly so that it takes over the whole affected organ, Midwood says.
"In the end, we found that tenascin-C has both stop and go functions cleverly concealed in the same molecule," Midwood says. "The large spiderlike protein may provide a scaffold for building, and the small domains of the protein block excess building. Small
|Contact: Angela Hopp|
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology