Affinity chromatography and immunolocalization techniques were used to investigate the mechanism(s) by which endothelial cells interact with the basement membrane component laminin. Bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC) membranes were solubilized and incubated with a laminin-Sepharose affinity column. SDS-PAGE analysis of the eluted proteins identified a 69-kD band as the major binding protein, along with minor components migrating at 125, 110, 92, 85, 75, 55, and 30 kD. Polyclonal antibodies directed against a peptide sequence of the 69-kD laminin-binding protein isolated from human tumor cells identified this protein in BAEC lysates. In frozen sections, these polyclonal antibodies and monoclonal antibodies raised against human tumor 69-kD stained the endothelium of bovine aorta and the medial smooth muscle cells, but not surrounding connective tissue or elastin fibers. When nonpermeabilized BAEC were stained in an in vitro migration assay, there appeared to be apical patches of 69 kD staining in stationary cells. However, when released from contact inhibition, 69 kD was localized to ruffling membranes on cells at the migrating front. Permeabilized BAEC stained for 69 kD diffusely, with a granular perinuclear distribution and in linear arrays throughout the cell. During migration a redistribution from diffuse to predominanately linear arrays that co-distributed with actin microfilaments was noted in double-label experiments. The 69-kD laminin-binding protein colocalized with actin filaments in permeabilized cultured microvascular endothelial cells in a continuous staining pattern at 6 h postplating which redistributed to punctate patches along the length of the filaments at confluence (96 h). In addition, 69 kD co-distribution with laminin could also be demonstrated in cultured subconfluent cells actively synthesizing matrix. Endothelial cells express a 69-kD laminin-binding protein that is membrane associated and appears to colocalize with actin microfilaments. The topological distribution of 69 kD and its cytoskeletal associations can be modulated by the cell during cell migration and growth suggesting that 69 kD may be a candidate for a membrane protein involved in signal transduction from extracellular matrix to cell via cytoskeletal connections.

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