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J Cell Sci. 2001 Mar;114(Pt 6):1155-67.

Cell-cell adhesion in human fibroblasts requires calcium signaling.

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  • 1CIHR Group in Periodontal Physiology, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E2, Canada.


In connective tissues, intercellular adhesion is essential for tissue morphogenesis, development and wound healing. However, the signaling mechanisms initiated by cell-cell adhesion in fibroblasts and that regulate it are not known. In this study we tested the hypothesis that intracellular calcium signaling is required to mediate intercellular adhesion between fibroblasts. Fura-2 or fluo-3 labeled human fibroblasts were used to investigate calcium homeostasis during intercellular adhesion. After contact with suspended fibroblasts there was a rise in cytosolic free calcium ([Ca2+]i) and multiple calcium oscillations in substrate-attached cells. Antibodies against the extracellular but not the cytoplasmic domain of cadherin induced a similar calcium response, indicating that these responses were initiated by cadherin binding. As shown by the near-plasma membrane Ca2+ indicator (Fura-C18) and by confocal microscopy of fluo-3-loaded cells, [Ca2+]i transients probably originated at sites of cell-cell contact. Cell-cell adhesion was dependent on both calcium influx through membrane channels and release of Ca2+ from internal calcium stores, because the calcium channel inhibitor LaCl3 or pretreatment of cells with thapsigargin significantly inhibited (>35%) cell-cell attachment. The [Ca2+]i changes induced by cell-cell adhesion were temporally correlated with increased recruitment of intercellular junctional proteins into the cytoskeleton and movement of GFP-actin to sites of cell-cell contact. [Ca2+]i responses induced by intercellular adhesion were essential for both junctional protein recruitment and the establishment of strong cell-cell contacts, as loading cells with BAPTA/AM significantly inhibited cell-cell adhesion and recruitment of cadherins and beta-catenin to the actin cytoskeleton. Actin depolymerization by cytochalasin D dramatically reduced cell-cell adhesion and recruitment of cadherins and catenin to the actin cytoskeleton. These results demonstrate that cadherin-cadherin interaction induces [Ca2+]i transients during cell-cell adhesion in fibroblasts, and these calcium signals regulate cell-cell adhesion through remodeling of cortical actin and recruitment of cadherins and beta-catenin into intercellular junctions.

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