Cell death & disease

Integrins α2β1 and α11β1 regulate the survival of mesenchymal stem cells on collagen I.

PMID 21796158


Although mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are the natural source for bone regeneration, the exact mechanisms governing MSC crosstalk with collagen I have not yet been uncovered. Cell adhesion to collagen I is mostly mediated by three integrin receptors - α1β1, α2β1 and α11β1. Using human MSC (hMSC), we show that α11 subunit exhibited the highest basal expression levels but on osteogenic stimulation, both α2 and α11 integrins were significantly upregulated. To elucidate the possible roles of collagen-binding integrins, we applied short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown in hMSC and found that α2 or α11 deficiency, but not α1, results in a tremendous reduction of hMSC numbers owing to mitochondrial leakage accompanied by Bcl-2-associated X protein upregulation. In order to clarify the signaling conveyed by the collagen-binding integrins in hMSC, we analyzed the activation of focal adhesion kinase, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase and serine/threonine protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) kinases and detected significantly reduced Akt phosphorylation only in α2- and α11-shRNA hMSC. Finally, experiments with hMSC from osteoporotic patients revealed a significant downregulation of α2 integrin concomitant with an augmented mitochondrial permeability. In conclusion, our study describes for the first time that disturbance of α2β1- or α11β1-mediated interactions to collagen I results in the cell death of MSCs and urges for further investigations examining the impact of MSCs in bone conditions with abnormal collagen I.