Increased expression of α6 integrin in endothelial cells unveils a proangiogenic role for basement membrane

Luca Primo, Giorgio Seano, Cristina Roca, Federica Maione, Paolo Armando Gagliardi, Roberto Sessa, Marianna Martinelli, Enrico Giraudo, Laura Di Blasio, Federico Bussolino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The integrin α6 subunit is part of the α6β1 and α6β4 integrin complexes, which are known to be receptors for laminins and to mediate several biological activities such as embryogenesis, organogenesis, and invasion of carcinoma cells. However, the precise role of α6 integrin in angiogenesis has not yet been addressed. We observed that both vascular endothelial growth factor-A and fibroblast growth factor-2 strongly upregulate α6 integrin in human endothelial cells. Moreover, α6 integrin was positively modulated in angiogenic vessels in pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma. In this transgenic mouse model of spontaneous tumorigenesis, α6 integrin expression increased in the angiogenic stage, while being expressed at low levels in normal and hyperplastic tissue. We studied the functional role of α6 integrin during angiogenesis by lentivirus-mediated gene silencing and blocking antibody. Cell migration and morphogenesis on basement membrane extracts, a laminin-rich matrix, was reduced in endothelial cells expressing low levels of α6 integrin. However, we did not observe any differences in collagen matrices. Similar results were obtained in the aortic ring angiogenesis assay. α6 integrin was required for vessel sprouting on basement membrane gels but not on collagen gels, as shown by stably silencing this integrin in the murine aorta. Finally, a neutralizing anti-α6 integrin antibody inhibited in vivo angiogenesis in chicken chorioallantoic membrane and transgenic tumor mouse model. In summary, we showed that the α6 integrin participated in vascular endothelial growth factor-A and fibroblast growth factor-2-driven angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that it might be an attractive target for therapeutic approaches in angiogenesis-dependent diseases such as tumor growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5759-5769
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Research
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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