The primary gene transcript for the adhesive extracellular matrix glycoprotein fibronectin (FN) is alternatively spliced in three regions (EIIIA, EIIIB and V). At least one of these regions (V) has been shown to encode cell-binding sites, suggesting that splicing represents a mechanism to create functionally different forms of FN at different times and places. In order to test this hypothesis, we have examined the extent of alternative splicing of fibronectin during embryonic development. The distribution of the different spliced forms of FN mRNA in developing chicken embryos was determined using probes specific for the spliced regions in ribonuclease protection and in situ hybridization experiments. At embryonic day 2-4 (E2-4), all three spliced regions were included wherever FN mRNA was detected. At E16, however, we found spatially distinct splicing differences within the embryo, with cell-type-specific splicing excluding EIIIA and/or EIIIB in some tissues. In contrast, we did not detect exclusion of the V region. In a more detailed developmental study of the simplest of these tissues, the chorioallantoic membrane, we found EIIIB was preferentially excluded after the completion of growth. These results suggest that FN splicing is used during development as a mechanism to create different forms of FN within the extracellular matrix by the inclusion or exclusion of specific segments. The data are consistent with an essential role for one of these segments, EIIIB, in the migration and/or proliferation of embryonic cells prior to their terminal differentiation and also suggest possible roles for the EIIIA segment.
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|Published - 1989