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Review

Integrins and their ligands in rheumatoid arthritis

Torsten Lowin* and Rainer H Straub

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Experimental Rheumatology and Neuroendocrine Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Regensburg, Franz-Josef Strauß Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:244  doi:10.1186/ar3464

Published: 28 October 2011

Abstract

Integrins play an important role in cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix and other cells. Upon ligand binding, signaling is initiated and several intracellular pathways are activated. This leads to a wide variety of effects, depending on cell type. Integrin activation has been linked to proliferation, secretion of matrix-degrading enzymes, cytokine production, migration, and invasion. Dysregulated integrin expression is often found in malignant disease. Tumors use integrins to evade apoptosis or metastasize, indicating that integrin signaling has to be tightly controlled. During the course of rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial tissue is infiltrated by immune cells that secrete large amounts of cytokines. This pro-inflammatory milieu leads to an upregulation of integrin receptors and their ligands in the synovial tissue. As a consequence, integrin signaling is enhanced, leading to enhanced production of matrix-degrading enzymes and cytokines. Furthermore, in analogy to invading tumors, synovial fibroblasts start invading and degrading cartilage, thereby generating extracellular matrix debris that can further activate integrins.