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Biochem J. 1999 May 1;339 ( Pt 3):481-8.

Extracellular matrix and integrin signalling: the shape of things to come.

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Surgical Research Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) and integrins collaborate to regulate gene expression associated with cell growth, differentiation and survival. Biochemical and molecular analyses of integrin signalling pathways have uncovered several critical cytoplasmic proteins that link the ECM and integrins to intracellular pathways that may contribute to anchorage-dependent growth. A large body of evidence now indicates that the non-receptor protein kinases focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and specific members of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), including the extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (ERKs), mediate these ECM- and integrin-derived signalling events. However, little is known about how FAK and MAPKs contribute to biological processes other than cell proliferation or migration. In addition, remarkably little is known concerning the signalling events that occur in cells that adhere to complex multivalent extracellular matrices via multiple integrin receptors. Given the stringent requirement for attaining a proper morphology in ECM/integrin-directed cell behaviour, it is still not clear how cell shape and tissue architecture impact upon intracellular signalling programmes involving FAK and MAPKs. However, the recent discovery that members of the Rho family of small GTPases are able to regulate ECM/integrin pathways that modulate both cell shape and intracellular signalling provides new insights into how cell morphology and signal transduction become integrated, especially within three-dimensional differentiated tissues.

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