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Gastroenterology. 2007 Feb;132(2):587-600. Epub 2006 Nov 16.

Cell-cell contacts prevent anoikis in primary human colonic epithelial cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.



Colonic epithelial cells (CECs) receive important survival signals from the extracellular matrix and undergo detachment-induced apoptosis (anoikis) as soon as they lose their cell-matrix anchorage. In contrast to the established role of cell-matrix contact, the role of cell-cell contacts as a physiologic survival factor for CECs is less clear.


Intact CEC crypts gently centrifuged to form a cell aggregate in which cell-cell contacts were maintained. Induction of apoptosis was assessed by Western Blot analysis, colorimetric assays, DNA electrophoresis, 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole staining, and flow cytometry. Activation of survival pathways was analyzed by Western blot. The role of mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2, epidermal growth factor receptor, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-K), and Src signaling was investigated using specific inhibitors.


Despite a complete loss of cell-matrix adhesion after CEC isolation, activation of caspases was blocked and anoikis was prevented when cell-cell contacts were preserved. CECs with preserved cell-cell contacts exhibited a rapid dephosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase. Aggregated CECs had stable levels of active beta-catenin and phosphorylated Akt, Erk1/2, and epidermal growth factor receptor, but CECs undergoing anoikis rapidly degraded beta-catenin and dephosphorylated Akt. Inhibition of Src- and PI3-K-dependent signaling reversed the antiapoptotic effect of cell-cell contact preservation, while inhibition of the MEK pathway had no effect.


Integrity of cell-cell contacts compensates for the loss of cell-matrix contact-mediated survival signals in CECs and prevents apoptosis. Cell-cell contact-triggered CEC survival involves antiapoptotic signaling through beta-catenin-, Src-, and PI3-K/Akt- but not through MEK- and focal adhesion kinase-dependent pathways.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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