, Volume 131, Issue 4, pp 531-536,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 24 Dec 2008

Differential expression of the integrins α6Aβ4 and α6Bβ4 along the crypt–villus axis in the human small intestine


The integrin α6 subunit exists as two different variants, termed α6A and α6B. These two variants have been shown to harbor potentially distinct biochemical properties but little is known about their cellular function. The aim of this work was to characterize the expression of the integrin α6A and B variants in relation to cell proliferation and differentiation in the human small intestinal epithelium. The results showed distinct expression patterns for the two variants along the crypt–villus axis. Indeed, proliferative cells of the crypt were found to predominantly express α6A, while differentiated enterocytes and Paneth cells expressed the α6B variant. A similar relationship was observed in intestinal cell models by competitive RT-PCR. Further studies in the Caco-2 cell model showed that manipulating the cellular balance of the two α6 variants can influence transcriptional activities related to cell proliferation but not differentiation. This suggests that differential expression of the α6 subunits is involved in the intestinal epithelial cell renewal process. Further studies will be needed to substantiate this hypothesis.

Anders Bondo Dydensborg and Inga C. Teller contributed equally to the work.