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Neoplasia. 2001 May-Jun;3(3):215-26.

The protrusive phase and full development of integrin-dependent adhesions in colon epithelial cells require FAK- and ERK-mediated actin spike formation: deregulation in cancer cells.

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Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, CRC Beatson Laboratories, Garscube Estate, Switchback Road, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 1BD, UK.


Integrins play an important role in tumour progression by influencing cellular responses and matrix-dependent adhesion. However, the regulation of matrix-dependent adhesion assembly in epithelial cells is poorly understood. We have investigated the integrin and signalling requirements of cell-matrix adhesion assembly in colon carcinoma cells after plating on fibronectin. Adhesion assembly in these, and in the adenoma cells from which they were derived, was largely dependent on alpha v beta 6 integrin and required phosphorylation of FAK on tyrosine-397. The rate of fibronectin-induced adhesion assembly and the expression of both alpha v beta 6 integrin and FAK were increased during the adenoma-to-carcinoma transition. The matrix-dependent adhesion assembly process, particularly the final stages of complex protrusion that is required for optimal cell spreading, required the activity of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Furthermore, phosphorylated ERK was targeted to newly forming cell--matrix adhesions in the carcinoma cells but not the adenoma cells, and inhibition of FAK--tyrosine-397 phosphorylation or MEK suppressed the appearance of phosphorylated ERK at peripheral sites. In addition, inhibition of MEK--ERK activation blocked the formation of peripheral actin microspikes that were necessary for the protrusive phase of cell-matrix adhesion assembly. Thus, MEK--ERK--dependent peripheral actin re-organization is required for the full development of integrin-induced adhesions and this pathway is stimulated in an in vitro model of colon cancer progression.

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