The integrin alpha v beta 6 has been shown to be a fibronectin-binding protein. To determine whether the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of alpha v beta 6 are necessary for binding to fibronectin, a truncated, secreted form of the integrin lacking these domains was engineered and expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Fibronectin affinity chromatography demonstrated that the secreted integrin, like its full-length counterpart, was capable of binding fibronectin. Monoclonal antibodies were made to secreted alpha v beta 6 and to beta 6-transfected NIH 3T3 cells. In experiments designed to determine whether alpha v beta 6 can mediate cell attachment to fibronectin, full-length human beta 6 was expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells and in the human colon carcinoma cell line SW480. beta 6-expressing cells were identified by alpha v beta 6-specific antibodies, and the beta 6-transfectants were used in cell-adhesion assays. In Chinese hamster ovary cells, human beta 6 associated with hamster alpha v but was incapable of mediating cell attachment to fibronectin. However, expression of beta 6 in these cells had the dominant negative effect of decreasing alpha v beta 5-dependent adhesion to vitronectin. In SW480 cells, beta 6 expression conferred the ability to bind to fibronectin even in the presence of inhibitory antibodies against beta 1 integrins. In such cells, fibronectin binding ability could be blocked by an antibody to alpha v integrins. These results constitute the first direct evidence that alpha v beta 6 mediates cell attachment to fibronectin.
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