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Blood. 1996 Jun 1;87(11):4780-8.

Integrin function in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Department of Haematology, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, UK.


Integrins are central to many aspects of the tissue localization of normal and malignant lymphocytes. We examined how integrin function, rather than simple expression, might determine disease behavior in chronic lymphocyte leukemia (CLL). Using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and immunoprecipitation, we first established the precise integrin heterodimer expression of a representative group of CLL patients (beta1 consistently present, with variable alpha 3, alpha 4, and alpha 5; alpha 4 beta 7 often expressed; alpha L beta 2 high; alpha V beta 3 absent). Regarding function, we initially examined the ability of CLL cells to interact with endothelium, because such interaction is the initial event determining the entry of CLL lymphocytes into tissues. The abnormal lymphocytes were shown to bind at low levels to unstimulated endothelium via beta 2/intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM). However, when the endothelium was stimulated, markedly enhanced interaction with endothelium was observed in approximately half the cases; in these patients, the neoplastic population expressed alpha 4 beta 1, which conferred the ability to adhere strongly to stimulated endothelium via the alpha 4 beta 1 ligand, vascular cellular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). In relation to the migration of CLL cells within tissues, the abnormal lymphocytes showed differential binding to various adhesive proteins; they did not attach to basement membrane components, but displayed variable adhesion to fibronectin (FN). Finally, we examined the role of cell activation in these processes, and showed that activated CLL lymphocyte populations showed an increased capacity to adhere to both endothelium and matrix. Moreover, ex vivo CLL cells showed no capacity to migrate through endothelium/stroma, but were able to do so after cytokine stimulation. These studies show how the constitutive integrin expression/function, the intrinsic activation state of the cell, and the capacity of cytokines to modify integrin-mediated function all combine to determine the different patterns of clinical disease observed in CLL.

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