The role of a3b1 integrin in malignancy is complex: while some studies have indicated a tumor suppressive role, many others have shown that a3b1 is a potent promoter of tumor cell adhesion, motility and invasion. This paradox may be reconciled by the fact that, in addition to a3b1's ability to mediate rapid migration on laminin-5, it can also transduce signals that promote the stable organization of E-cadherin-based adherens junctions. The balance between these opposing a3b1 functions may be regulated by a3b1- associated tetraspanin proteins. In particular, the loss of tetraspanin CD9 in tumor cells is linked to enhanced metastasis in clinical and experimental studies. Despite these data, neither the a3b1 loss-of-function pheno- type nor the role of a3b1's junction-stabilizing activity has been explored in the context of tumor biology. Our long term goal is to understand how tumor-host interactions can be manipulated to inhibit tumor cell metastasis. The objectives of this application are to (i) determine the role of a3b1 integrin in regulating collective tumor cell migration, local invasion, and metastatic colonization in conjunction with, and independently of, its ability to promote adherens junction stability, and (ii) define the mechanism by which a3b1 signals to promote the stability of carcinoma cell-cell junctions. The central hypothesis is that a3b1's ability to promote tumor invasion and metastatic colonization is balanced by a3b1's ability to promote adherens junction stability by a mechanism that depends on a3b1 association with tetraspanin CD9. This hypothesis will be tested in three specific aims. The first specific aim is to determine the roles of a3b1 integrin, tetraspanin CD9, and a3b1-CD9 association in promoting carcinoma cell junctional stability. Using epidermoid and breast carcinoma cells in which we have manipulated (i) a3 or CD9 expression, (ii) a3b1-CD9 association, and (iii) a3b1 ligand binding, we will assess adherens junction organization and stability, collective cell migration, and the cellular dynamics within intact cell sheets. The second specific aim is to define the role of a3b1 integrin expression and association with CD9 in tumor invasion and metastatic colonization. We will use a novel orthotopic invasion assay for epidermal carcinoma cells and an established orthotopic model of spontaneous breast cancer metastasis to test tumor cells in which a3 integrin or CD9 expression, a3-CD9 association, or a3 ligand binding have been separately manipulated. The third specific aim is to determine the mechanism by which a3b1 signals to promote adherens junction stability. We will use our tumor cell variants together with selective inhibitors and activators of specific cytoplasmic signaling effectors identified in our preliminary experiments to determine the connection between a3b1 signaling and the resulting stabilization of adherens junctions. Collectively, the experiments in this proposal are expected to provide critical data on the function of a3b1 in metastatic colonization, and how it relates to a3b1's role as a regulator of E-cadherin. Such results may yield important information on the suit- ability of a3b1 integrin, its associated proteins, and downstream effectors as therapeutic targets in malignancy.

Public Health Relevance

To develop more effective and efficient cancer treatments, a major goal is to identify methods for controlling metastasis without harming healthy tissue. The proposed studies are relevant to this goal because they are expected to illuminate an as yet poorly understood mechanism that regulates the ability of tumor cells to metastasize. Once we understand more about the factors that contribute to metastasis, we may be able to identify tumor-specific processes that could be therapeutically targeted.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Tumor Progression and Metastasis Study Section (TPM)
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Woodhouse, Elizabeth
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University of Iowa
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Iowa City
United States
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