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J Cell Sci. 2002 Oct 1;115(Pt 19):3729-38.

Get a ligand, get a life: integrins, signaling and cell survival.

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Department of Immunology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA, 92037, USA.


Programmed cell death is crucial for the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms. The decision to live, or to die, depends, at the cellular level, upon the cell's interaction with extracellular cues that trigger cell signaling pathways promoting survival or death. The extracellular matrix (ECM) influences the execution of the apoptotic program through the actions of adhesion receptors. Among these, integrins initiate a variety of downstream signaling events in response to ECM ligation. Integrins directly activate survival pathways via the PI 3-kinase and MAPK pathways and act as essential cofactors for their stimulation by growth factors. Conversely, elevated integrin expression in the absence of appropriate ligands, or in the presence of natural or synthetic antagonists, can promote apoptosis under otherwise permissive growth conditions. Integrins thus act in a crucial biosensory role, coordinating survival or death responses as a function of ECM composition. This dual function provides an elegant mechanism through which tissue-remodeling events may regulate cell death or survival in a temporal, ECM-governed manner.

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