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Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) has a suppressive effect on U87 glioma cell proliferation when assessed in vitro and in vivo using parental U87T2 and U87T2-derived SPARC-transfected clones. Since SPARCinteracts with extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, we examined the effect of SPARC secretion on proliferation, morphology, and cell density of glioma cells grown in vitro, in the absence and presence of ECM proteins under standard (10% fetal bovine serum [FBSI) and reduced (0.1% FBS) serum stress conditions. Under standard conditions, MTT (3-(4,5-cimethythiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) growth curves, morphology, and Western blot analyses demonstrated that SPARC had a suppressive and biphasic effect on growth that was not grossly modulated by the ECMs. The SPARC-induced changes in morphology observed at 24 h were not altered by the presence of ECMs. Under reduced-serum stress conditions, Western blot, morphological, and flow cytometric analyses indicated that the SPARC-induced suppressive growth effects were eliminated when the cells were grown on plastic. However, ECM-specific changes in growth were observed, some of which correlated with secreted SPARC levels. These results indicate that the differential effects of SPARC and ECMs on proliferation are dependent on culture conditions. Since the results obtained under standard conditions agree with our in vivo observations, we conclude that the ability of SPARC to suppress proliferation is regulated to a greater degree by the level of SPARC and that this suppressive effect is not influenced by the presence of any of the ECMs examined.