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J Cell Physiol. 1996 Sep;168(3):695-704.

Role of integrins in regulation of collagen phagocytosis by human fibroblasts.

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MRC Group in Periodontal Physiology, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Phagocytosis of collagen fibrils by fibroblasts is an important pathway for degradation of extracellular matrix in mature connective tissues. To study regulatory mechanisms in phagocytosis, 2-microns fluorescent beads coated with either collagen (COL) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) were incubated with human gingival fibroblasts in vitro. For these studies single cell suspensions were prepared by trypsinization, and bead internalization and collagen receptor expression were assessed by flow cytometry. After 3-h incubations, up to 8-fold more cells internalized COL beads than BSA-coated beads. Increased collagen coating concentration was associated with elevated proportions of cells that internalized COL beads, and was observed also in the presence of competing fibronectin-coated beads. The number of beads per cell and the percent of phagocytic cells increased proportionally with higher bead loadings. At > 4 beads per cell a maximum of approximately 80% of cells were phagocytic. Cells reacted with mAbs against the alpha 1, alpha 2, and alpha 3 integrin subunits were, respectively, 5%, 98% and 93% positively stained above background controls. All cells that internalized COL beads exhibited alpha 2 staining but there were large proportions of phagocytic cells that were not stained for alpha 1. In unfixed cells, bead internalization caused an immediate reduction of surface staining of membrane-bound alpha 2 by approximately 55% which returned to control levels within 3 h, indicating that cell-surface alpha 2 was internalized by phagocytosis. Preincubation of cells with up to 8 COL beads per cell reduced the proportion of phagocytic cells and the number of internalized beads after a second COL bead incubation 4 h later. To assess the relationship between the percent of phagocytic cells and alpha 2 integrin levels, serum starvation and cycloheximide experiments were conducted. Compared to controls, serum starvation for 24 h induced a 3.2-fold increase of cells internalizing COL beads but did not alter alpha 2 staining levels. In contrast, 3 h cycloheximide treatment reduced alpha 2 staining to 60% of control levels and this treatment also inhibited COL bead internalization. GRGDTP peptide as well as mAbs against the alpha 1 and alpha 2 subunits significantly reduced internalization of COL beads by 1.8 to 2.6-fold, whereas GRGESP peptide and alpha 3 mAb exerted no effect. Internalization of BSA beads was not affected by any of these treatments. Collectively, these data indicate that the alpha 2 integrin, along with other, as yet unidentified components, is likely involved in COL bead internalization. The alpha 2 integrin subunit is rapidly recycled or synthesized following a phagocytic load. In contrast, the alpha 1 integrin is not directly required for phagocytosis but may regulate the internalization step.

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