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Hepatology. 2001 Jul;34(1):42-9.

The integrin, alpha6beta1, is necessary for the matrix-dependent activation of FAK and MAP kinase and the migration of human hepatocarcinoma cells.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Universita' di Firenze, Firenze, Italy.


Expression of the integrin, alpha6beta1, a receptor for laminins, is associated with the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The approach to investigating the alpha6beta1 integrin signaling in HCC cells was to express a deletion mutant of the beta4 integrin cytoplasmic domain (beta4-Deltacyt) in 2 HCC cell lines, HepG2 and Huh7. Expression of this mutant prevents formation of the alpha6beta1 heterodimer. As expected, adhesion of both the HepG2/beta4-Deltacyt and Huh7/beta4-Deltacyt transfectants to laminin, but not to collagen, was reduced compared with the mock transfectants. However, migration of the beta4-Deltacyt transfectants toward both collagen and laminin was inhibited, suggesting a role for alpha6beta1 in the signaling of migration. Migration of HCC cells requires mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase. The adhesion of the beta4-Deltacyt transfectants to collagen resulted in a substantial reduction in MAP kinase activation in comparison with the mock transfectants, although their ability to activate MAP kinase in response to epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation was not impaired. In addition, matrix adhesion of the beta4-Deltacyt transfectants did not stimulate the tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK), and this defect correlated with reduced binding of adaptor protein Grb2 to FAK. These results suggest that FAK tyrosine phosphorylation is dependent on alpha6beta1 expression, and that FAK-Grb2 association plays a central role in alpha6beta1-mediated activation of MAP kinase. Moreover, the expression of alpha6beta1 in HCC cells is necessary for FAK/MAP kinase-dependent migration.

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