Traction forces mediated by alpha6beta4 integrin: implications for basement membrane organization and tumor invasion

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Cancer Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Antigens, Surface; Basement Membrane; Breast Neoplasms; Cell Adhesion; Extracellular Matrix; Humans; Integrin alpha6beta4; Integrins; Laminin; Microscopy, Electron; Microscopy, Fluorescence; Microscopy, Video; *Neoplasm Invasiveness; Neoplasms; Pseudopodia; Signal Transduction; Tumor Cells, Cultured


Cancer Biology | Neoplasms


The integrin alpha6beta4, a laminin receptor that stabilizes epithelial cell adhesion to the basement membrane (BM) through its association with cytokeratins, can stimulate the formation and stabilization of actin-rich protrusions in carcinoma cells. An important, unresolved issue, however, is whether this integrin can transmit forces to the substrate generated by the acto-myosin system. Using a traction-force detection assay, we detected forces exerted through alpha6beta4 on either laminin-1 or on an anti-alpha6 antibody, demonstrating that this integrin can transmit forces without the need to engage other integrins. These alpha6beta4-dependent traction forces were organized into a compression machine localized to the base of lamellae. We hypothesized that the compression forces generated by alpha6beta4 result in the remodeling of BMs because this integrin plays a major role in the interaction of epithelial and carcinoma cells with such structures. Indeed, we observed that carcinoma cells are able to remodel a reconstituted BM through alpha6beta4-mediated compression forces by a process that involves the packing of BM material under the cells and the mechanical removal of BM from adjacent areas. The distinct signaling functions of alpha6beta4, which activate phosphoinositide 3-OH kinase and RhoA, also contribute to remodeling. Importantly, we demonstrate remodeling of a native BM by epithelial cells and the involvement of alpha6beta4 in this remodeling. Our findings have important implications for the mechanism of both BM organization and tumor invasion.

DOI of Published Version



Mol Biol Cell. 2001 Dec;12(12):4030-43.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Molecular biology of the cell

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PubMed ID