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Mol Biol Cell. 1994 Jun;5(6):679-90.

Regulation of cellular interactions with laminin by integrin cytoplasmic domains: the A and B structural variants of the alpha 6 beta 1 integrin differentially modulate the adhesive strength, morphology, and migration of macrophages.

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  • 1Program in Cell and Developmental Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Several integrin alpha subunits have structural variants that are identical in their extracellular and transmembrane domains but that differ in their cytoplasmic domains. The functional significance of these variants, however, is unknown. In the present study, we examined the possibility that the A and B variants of the alpha 6 beta 1 integrin laminin receptor differ in function. For this purpose, we expressed the alpha 6A and alpha 6B cDNAs, as well as a truncated alpha 6 cDNA (alpha 6-delta CYT) in which the cytoplasmic domain sequence was deleted after the GFFKR pentapeptide, in P388D1 cells, an alpha 6 deficient macrophage cell line. Populations of stable alpha 6A, alpha 6B, and alpha 6-delta CYT transfectants that expressed equivalent levels of cell surface alpha 6 were obtained by fluorescence-activated cell sorter and shown to form heterodimers with endogenous beta 1 subunits. Upon attachment to laminin, the alpha 6A transfectants extended numerous pseudopodia. In contrast, the alpha 6B transfectants remained rounded and extended few processes. The transfectants were also examined for their ability to migrate toward a laminin substratum using Transwell chambers. The alpha 6A transfectants were three- to fourfold more migratory than the alpha 6B transfectants. The alpha 6-delta CYT transfectants did not attach to laminin in normal culture medium, but they did attach in the presence of Mn2+. The alpha 6-delta CYT transfectants migrated to a lesser extent than either the alpha 6A or alpha 6B transfectants in the presence of Mn2+. The alpha 6 transfectants differed significantly in the concentration of substratum bound laminin required for half-maximal adhesion in the presence of Mn2+:alpha 6A (2.1 micrograms/ml), alpha 6B (6.3 micrograms/ml), and alpha 6-delta CYT (8.8 micrograms/ml). Divalent cation titration studies revealed that these transfectants also differed significantly in both the [Ca2+] and [Mn2+] required to obtain half-maximal adhesion to laminin. These data demonstrate that the A and B variants of the alpha 6 cytoplasmic domain can differentially modulate the function of the alpha 6 beta 1 extracellular domain.

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