Fibronectins are a class of cell-adhesion proteins produced from a single gene. The soluble plasma form is synthesized by hepatocytes and the insoluble cellular form by fibroblasts and other cell types. The proteins possess multiple binding domains for macromolecules including collagen, fibrin and heparin along with at least one cell-binding domain. Cellular as well as plasma fibronectins are dimers of similar but not identical polypeptides. Their differences are the result of internal amino acid sequence variability due to alternative RNA splicing in at least three regions (ED-A, ED-B and III CS). We have been studying this polymorphism at the protein level in plasma fibronectin (pFn). Cathepsin D-digested pFn applied to a heparin-agarose column and eluted with an NaCl stepwise gradient (0.1 M, 0.25 M and 0.5 M) released two polypeptides (75 kDa and 65 kDa) in the 0.5 M-NaCl peak. Immunoblots with monoclonal antibodies IST-2 (specific for the C-terminal heparin-binding domain) and AHB-3 (specific for the III CS domain) suggest that both peptides contain the C-terminal heparin-binding (Hep-2) domain, but that only the larger fragment possesses the III CS region. These two polypeptides (75 kDa and 65 kDa) were digested with trypsin, and the resulting peptides were analysed by fast-atom-bombardment mass spectrometry and compared with the known cDNA-derived peptide sequence. Peptides that were unique to the III CS region were further characterized by micro sequence analysis. The 75 kDa fragment is derived from the A-chain and contains the III CS region (89 amino acid residues) along with the C-terminal heparin-binding (Hep-2) domain and the fibrin-binding (Fib-2) domain. A single galactosamine-based carbohydrate group was detected at Thr-73/74 of the III CS region present in the 75 kDa fragment. The 65 kDa fragment is derived from the B-chain and lacks the entire III CS region but does contain the Hep-2 and Fib-2 domains.