Extracellular matrix, integrins, and growth factors as tailors of the stem cell niche

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2012 Oct;24(5):645-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2012.07.001. Epub 2012 Aug 13.


It is widely acknowledged that integrins, the major receptors for the extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, exert an extensive crosstalk with many growth factor and cytokine receptors. Among them, growth factor receptors, such as the EGFR, MET, PDGFR and VEGFR, and the IL-3 receptor have been shown to be physically and functionally associated to integrins. The connection between integrins and other transmembrane receptors is bidirectional, integrins being essential for receptor signalling, and receptors being involved in regulation of integrin expression or activation. Moreover, there is accumulating evidence for direct binding of specific growth factors and morphogens to the ECM proteins, suggesting that ECM might spatially integrate different types of signals in a specific microenvironment, facilitating integrin/transmembrane receptors connection. These interactions are crucial in controlling a variety of cell behaviours including proliferation, survival and differentiation. The increasing interest for cell therapy in regenerative medicine has recently emphasized the role of cell-ECM adhesion as stem cell determinant. The relevance of ECM, integrins and growth factor receptor network in the establishment of stem cell niche, in maintenance of stem cells and in their differentiation will be analyzed in the present review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Integrins / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Pliability
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Stem Cell Niche / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Integrin beta1
  • Integrins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Receptors, Growth Factor