Expression and in vitro regulation of integrins by normal human urothelial cells

J. Southgate*, W. Kennedy, K. A R Hutton, L. K. Trejdosiewicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Integrins are thought to be essential adhesion receptors for the maintenance of tissue hisr tioarchitecture. The purpose of this study was to determine integrin expression patterns in the human stratified transitional epithelium of the urinary tract (urothelium). In situ expression patterns were compared with in vitro expression, using a normal cell culture model system in which the effects of cell stratification can be studied independently of differentiation. By immunohistological criteria, the urothelia of bladder, ureter and renal pelvis expressed α2β1 and α3β1 integrins in all layers at intercellular junctions, and cytoplasmically in the lower strata. By contrast, α6β4 and occasionally αvβ4 were expressed only by basal cells and localised to the basal lamina. These expression patterns were unaltered in specimens where an inflammatory cell infiltrate was present. In long-term cultures of normal urothelial cells maintained in a low-Ca+plus;serum-free medium, the monolayer cultures expressed α2β1, α3β1 and α5β1 integrins at intercellular junctions and in cytoplasmic inclusions, whereas α6β4 was distributed in a random pattern over the substratum. Increasing exogenous Ca+plus;concentrations induced cell stratification and desmosome formation, but not cytodifferentiation. Under these conditions, α6β4 became cell-, rather than substratum-associated, localising particularly to filopodia and lamellipodia. Quantitation of integrin expression by flow cytometry confirmed increased surface expression of α6β4 in high Ca+plus;media, and also of α3 and α5, but not α2, subunits. These results suggest that α2β1 and α3β1 integrins, although differentially regulated, are mainly involved in homotypic cell-cell interactions and the maintenance of a stratified morphology, whereas α6β4 is the principal integrin involved in substratum adhesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
JournalCell Communication and Adhesion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995


  • Cell adhesion
  • Differentiation
  • Epithelial cells
  • Integrin
  • Stratification
  • Urothelium

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