Thrombomodulin (TM) is an integral membrane glycoprotein that is a potent anticoagulant factor. TM may also possess functions distinct from its anticoagulant activity. Here the influence of TM on cell adhesion was studied in TM-negative melanoma A2058 cells transfected with green fluorescent protein-tagged TM (TMG) or lectin domain-deleted TM (TMG(ΔL)). Confocal microscopy demonstrated that both TMG and TMG(ΔL) were distributed in the plasma membrane. TMG-expressed cells grew as closely clustered colonies, with TM localized prominently in the intercellular boundaries. TMG(Δ L)-expressed cells grew singly. Overexpression of TMG, but not TMG(ΔL), decreased monolayer permeability in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. The cell-to-cell adhesion in TMG-expressed cells was Ca2+-dependent and was inhibited by monoclonal antibody against the lectin-like domain of TM. The effects of TM-mediated cell adhesion were abolished by the addition of mannose, chondroitin sulfate A, or chondroitin sulfate C. In addition, anti-lectin-like domain antibody disrupted the close clustering of the endogenous TM-expressed keratinocyte HaCaT cell line derived from normal human epidermis. Double-labeling immunofluorescence staining revealed similar distributions of TM and actin filament in the cortex region of the TMG-expressed cells. Thus, TM can function as a Ca2+-dependent cell-to-cell adhesion molecule. Binding of specific carbohydrates to the lectin-like domain is essential for this specific function.
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