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Cell Regul. 1991 Jun;2(6):427-38.

A function for the integrin alpha 6 beta 4 in the hemidesmosome.

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Cell, Molecular, and Structural Biology Department, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611.


Many epithelial cells appear to use cell-substratum adhesion complexes known as hemidesmosomes as the main means of anchorage to the connective tissue. Initially recognized as distinctive electron-dense images, hemidesmosomes are still poorly understood at the biochemical level. The regulation and mode of their assembly, which is disrupted in certain blistering diseases and is critical to proper wound repair, also remains to be elucidated. The integrin alpha 6 beta 4 is expressed along the basal surface of various epithelial cells. We show here that this integrin localizes to hemidesmosomes as determined by immunoelectron microscopy using antibodies directed against both the extra- and intracytoplasmic domains of alpha 6 beta 4. This result, which agrees with a recent study, suggests a functional role for the alpha 6 beta 4 integrin in the hemidesmosomes. We therefore investigated such a potential role for this integrin using the cultured rat bladder carcinoma cell line 804G, which has the uncommon ability to form hemidesmosomes in vitro when maintained on uncoated glass substrates. By immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence, we show that 804G cells express alpha 6 beta 4 along their basal surface in a punctate pattern that overlaps with the distribution of hemidesmosomal plaque antigens. However, this pattern is altered when cells are plated in the presence of an antiserum directed against alpha 6 beta 4. Furthermore, no hemidesmosomes are detectable at the ultrastructural level in the alpha 6 beta 4 antibody-treated cells compared with control cells. These results indicate that integrins may play a critical role in assembly and adhesive functions of the hemidesmosome.

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