, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 469-477

Integrins: cell adhesives and modulators of cell function

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Summary

Integrins encompass a family of cell-surface molecules which play a crucial role in cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interaction. Of these heterodimeric transmembrane glycoproteins (consisting of an α and β chain) as yet at least 20 different types have been described, all with a different pattern of reactivity with extracellular matrix components. In this review the cell and tissue distribution of the integrins is discussed, with special emphasis on immunohistochemical localization of the β1 integrins and the α6β4 integrin. The β1 integrins comprise a subfamily in which eight α chains combine with one β (the β1) chain. The α2β1, α3β1 and α6β1 and the α6β4 integrins are expressed on a wide variety of epithelia on the basolateral surface or exclusively on the basal surface facing the basement membrane (e.g. α6β1 and α6β4). Leucocyte integrins, which share a common α2 chain, occur almost exclusively on white blood cells and their precursors. The vitronectin receptors, which share a common αv chain, occur in a wide variety of cell types. Integrins play a major role in the interaction of the cell with the extracellular matrix in order to create and maintain tissue architecture. It has become clear, however, that through integrin-ligand interaction cell function is also modulated. Furthermore, in pathological conditions integrins play a role of some significance. Integrins mediate leucocyte traffic in developing inflammatory processes and function in neoplastic growth when it comes to invasion and metastasis.