Synthesis of collagen and fibronectin by glomerular cells in culture

Ren Physiol. 1980;3(1-6):183-92. doi: 10.1159/000172760.


The biosynthesis of collagen and fibronectin molecules by cultivated glomerular epithelial or mesangial cells was studied at confluency using radioactive proline or lysine as precursors. Collagen represented 0.5% of the total protein synthesized by the glomerular epithelial cells. About 60% of this collagenous protein were associated to the cell layer, whereas about 40% were secreted into the culture medium. Two major collagenous polypeptides were observed with apparent molecular weights of 185K and 170K, and were identified as two gene products of type IV procollagen. They exhibited ratios of 3- to 4-hydroxyproline, of total hydroxyproline to proline, and of hydroxylysine to lysine characteristic of type IV procollagen. They were degraded by bacterial collagenase. The patterns of peptides obtained after digestion of the 185K and 170K chains of this type IV procollagen with pepsin and V8 protease were identical to those obtained after digestion of type IV procollagen chains purified from a murine tumor (EHS sarcoma). Finally. a purified antibody to type IV collagen specifically immunoprecipitated the collagenous protein produced by the glomerular epithelial cells. By contrast, the mesangial cells synthesized about 5% of collagenous protein. 90% of this collagen were secreted into the cultured medium, whereas about 10% remained associated to the cell layer. Type I, III and IV procollagens were synthesized by the mesangial cells. Fibronectin was found in the medium and cell layer of both epithelial and mesangial cells. Fibronectin molecules were identified by their resistance to bacterial collagenase, their susceptibility to pepsin digestion, and their specific adherence to collagen. It was composed of disulfide-linked peptides of 220K daltons. The data therefore demonstrate that: (a) the glomerular epithelial and mesangial cells synthesize fibronectin molecules and type IV procollagen in vitro; (b) the cultivated mesangial cells also synthesize type I and III collagens. The implications of these findings in certain pathological circumstances, such as diabetes mellitus, are now being investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, DEAE-Cellulose
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • Collagen / isolation & purification
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Fibronectins / biosynthesis*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Procollagen / isolation & purification
  • Rats


  • Amino Acids
  • Fibronectins
  • Procollagen
  • Collagen