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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2003 Dec;23(12):2146-54. Epub 2003 Oct 9.

Anoikis in the cardiovascular system: known and unknown extracellular mediators.

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INSERM Unit 460, CHU Xavier Bichat, 46, rue Henri Huchard, 75877 Paris Cedex 18, France.


Anoïkis is defined as programmed cell death induced by the loss of cell/matrix interactions. Adhesion to structural glycoproteins of the extracellular matrix is necessary for survival of the differentiated adherent cells in the cardiovascular system, including endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, and cardiac myocytes. Adhesion is also a key factor for the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. In particular, fibronectin is considered a factor of survival and differentiation for many adherent cells. Adhesion generates cell tensional integrity (tensegrity) and repression of apoptotic signals, whereas detachment has the opposite effect. Anoïkis plays a physiological role by regulating cell homeostasis in tissues. However, anoïkis can also be involved in pathological processes, as illustrated by the resistance to anoïkis in cancer and its enhancement in degenerative tissue remodeling. Extracellular mediators of anoïkis include matrix retraction, leading to loss of tensegrity in fibroblasts, pharmacological disengagement of integrins by RGD-like peptides and fragments of fibronectin, and focal adhesion disassembly by fragments of thrombospondin, plasminogen activator-1, and high-molecular-weight kininogen. In addition to binding of the RGD peptide by integrins, the engagement of the heparin binding sites of adhesive glycoproteins with glycosaminoglycans on the cell surface is also involved in the prevention of cell detachment-induced apoptosis. Proteases able to degrade adhesive glycoproteins, such as fibronectin, induce anoïkis of vascular adherent cells. Active proteases can either be secreted directly by inflammatory cells, as elastase and cathepsin G by polymorphonuclear leukocytes, chymase and tryptase by mast cells, and granzymes by lymphocytes, or generated from circulating zymogens by activation in close contact with the cells. This is the case for the pericellular conversion of plasminogen to plasmin, which degrades fibronectin and induces anoïkis of smooth muscle cells. Involvement of proteases has also been proposed in the apoptotic response of cultured adherent cells to serum starvation. Anoïkis is probably involved in pathological remodeling of cardiovascular tissues, including cardiac myocyte detachment in heart failure, deendothelialization and plaque rupture in atherosclerosis, and smooth muscle cell disappearance in aneurysms and varicose veins. The absence of cell adhesion and growth resulting from cleavage of adhesive proteins also represents a major impediment to cellular healing, including the absence of cell recolonization of proteolytically injured tissue and the low efficacy of cell transplantation. However, the exact role of anoïkis in cardiovascular pathologies remains to be further defined.

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