International Journal of Cancer: Integrin alpha 6 (ITGA6) is upregulated and drives hepatocellular carcinoma progression through integrin α6β4 complex (Lai, Chen)
Integrin α6 (ITGA6) forms integrin receptors with either integrin β1 (ITGB1) or integrin β4 (ITGB4). How it functions to regulate hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression is not well-elucidated. We found that ITGA6 RNA and protein expression levels are significantly elevated in human HCC tissues in comparison with paired adjacent non-tumor tissues by RNA sequencing, RT-qPCR, Western blotting, and immunofluorescence staining. Stable knockdown of ITGA6 with different ITGA6 shRNA expression lentivectors significantly inhibited proliferation, migration, and anchorage-independent growth of HCC cell lines in vitro, and xenograft tumor growth in vivo. The inhibition of anchorage-dependent and -independent growth of HCC cell lines was also confirmed with the anti-ITGA6 antibody. ITGA6 knockdown was shown to induce cell-cycle arrest at G0/G1 phase. Immunoprecipitation assay revealed apparent interaction of ITGA6 with ITGB4, but not ITGB1. Expression studies showed that ITGA6 positively regulates the expression of ITGB4 with no or negative regulation of ITGB1 expression. Finally, while high levels of ITGA6 and ITGB4 together were associated with significantly worse survival of HCC patients in the TCGA data set, the association was not significant for high levels of ITGA6 and ITGB1. In conclusion, ITGA6 is up-regulated in HCC tumors and has a malignant promoting role in HCC cells through the integrin α6β4 complex. Thus, integrin α6β4 may be a therapeutic target for treating patients with HCC.