The molecular mechanisms underlying cell attachment and subsequent cell spreading on laminin are shown to be distinct form one another. Cell spreading is dependent upon the binding of cell surface galactosyltransferase (GalTase) to laminin oligosaccharides, while initial cell attachment to laminin occurs independent of GalTase activity. Anti-GalTase IgG, as well as the GalTase modifier protein, alpha-lactalbumin, both block GalTase activity and inhibited B16-F10 melanoma cell spreading on laminin, but not initial attachment. On the other hand, the addition of UDP galactose, which increases the catalytic turnover of GalTase, slightly increased cell spreading. None of these reagents had any effect on cell spreading on fibronectin. When GalTase substrates within laminin were either blocked by affinity-purified GalTase or eliminated by prior galactosylation, cell attachment appeared normal, but subsequent cell spreading was totally inhibited. The laminin substrate for GalTase was identified as N-linked oligosaccharides primarily on the A chain, and to a lesser extent on B chains. That N-linked oligosaccharides are necessary for cell spreading was shown by the inability of cells to spread on laminin surfaces pretreated with N-glycanase, even though cell attachment was normal. Cell surface GalTase was distinguished from other reported laminin binding proteins, most notably the 68-kD receptor, since they were differentially eluted from laminin affinity columns. These data show that surface GalTase does not participate during initial cell adhesion to laminin, but mediates subsequent cell spreading by binding to its appropriate N-linked oligosaccharide substrate. These results also emphasize that some of laminin's biological properties can be attributed to its oligosaccharide residues.

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