alpha11beta1 integrin constitutes a recent addition to the integrin family. Here, we present the first in vivo analysis of alpha11 protein and mRNA distribution during human embryonic development. alpha11 protein and mRNA were present in various mesenchymal cells around the cartilage anlage in the developing skeleton in a pattern similar to that described for the transcription factor scleraxis. alpha11 was also expressed by mesenchymal cells in intervertebral discs and in keratocytes in cornea, two sites with highly organized collagen networks. Neither alpha11 mRNA nor alpha11 protein could be detected in myogenic cells in human embryos. The described expression pattern is compatible with alpha11beta1 functioning as a receptor for interstitial collagens in vivo. To test this hypothesis in vitro, full-length human alpha11 cDNA was stably transfected into the mouse satellite cell line C2C12, lacking endogenous collagen receptors. alpha11beta1 mediated cell adhesion to collagens I and IV (with a preference for collagen I) and formed focal contacts on collagens. In addition, alpha11beta1 mediated contraction of fibrillar collagen gels in a manner similar to alpha2beta1, and supported migration on collagen I in response to chemotactic stimuli. Our data support a role for alpha11beta1 as a receptor for interstitial collagens on mesenchymally derived cells and suggest a multifunctional role of alpha11beta1 in the recognition and organization of interstitial collagen matrices during development.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.