Projects per year
Thrombospondins participate in many aspects of tissue organisation in adult tissue homeostasis, and their dysregulation contributes to pathological processes such as fibrosis and tumour progression. The incorporation of thrombospondins into extracellular matrix (ECM) as discrete puncta has been documented in various tissue and cell biological contexts, yet the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We find that collagen fibrils are disorganised in multiple tissues of Thbs1-/- mice. In investigating how thrombospondins become retained within ECM and thereby impact on ECM organisation, we identify that accumulation of thrombospondin-1 or thrombospondin-5 puncta within cell-derived ECM is controlled by a novel, conserved, surface-exposed site on the thrombospondin l-type lectin domain. This site acts to recruit thrombospondin molecules into ECM by intermolecular interactions in trans. This mechanism is fibronectin-independent, can take place extracellularly, and is demonstrated to be direct in vitro. The trans intermolecular interactions can also be heterotypic, e.g. between thrombospondin-1 and thrombospondin-5. These data identify a novel concept of concentration-dependent, intermolecular "matrix-trapping" as a conserved mechanism that controls the accumulation and thereby the functionality of thrombospondins in ECM.