Hemidesmosomes (HDs) are specialized multiprotein complexes that connect the keratin cytoskeleton of epithelial cells to the extracellular matrix (ECM). In the skin, these complexes provide stable adhesion of basal keratinocytes to the underlying basement membrane. Integrin α6β4 is a receptor for laminins and plays a vital role in mediating cell adhesion by initiating the assembly of HDs. In addition, α6β4 has been implicated in signal transduction events that regulate diverse cellular processes, including proliferation and survival. In this Review, we detail the role of α6β4 in HD assembly and beyond, and we discuss the molecular mechanisms that regulate its function.

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