To study the biological role of alpha 3 beta 1 integrins in cell adhesion, migration, and in the deposition of extracellular matrix, we stably expressed the human alpha 3 integrin subunit in the alpha 4, alpha 5 integrin deficient CHO cell line B2. The expression of alpha 3 beta 1 integrins enhanced cell adhesion on entactin (also known as nidogen), but not on fibronectin. Using recombinant GST-fusion proteins that span the entire length of the entactin molecule, we located cell adhesive activity to the G2 domain of entactin. These results suggest that the alpha 3 beta 1 integrin functions as an adhesion receptor interacting with the G2 domain of entactin. On the other hand, the expression of alpha 3 beta 1 integrins did not confer the ability to migrate on entactin. Strikingly, the expression of alpha 3 beta 1 dramatically increased the deposition of entactin and fibronectin into the pericellular matrix. This was accompanied by increased binding activity of the 29 kDa amino-terminal domain of fibronectin. Thus, similar to alpha 5 beta 1 integrins, alpha 3 beta 1 integrins can play an important role in modulating the assembly of pericellular matrices. However, unlike fibronectin deposition supported by alpha 5 beta 1, alpha 3 beta 1 supported fibronectin deposition into pericellular matrix was not inhibited by antibodies binding to the RGD containing cell adhesion domain of fibronectin, demonstrating that the two processes are mechanistically distinct. The role of alpha 3 beta 1 in pericellular matrix assembly potentially implicates this receptor in the assembly and/or recognition of entactin-containing pericellular matrices, an observation consistent with its apparent role in the renal glomerulus of the mammalian kidney.

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