Anchor or Accelerate: A Study on Cancer Cell Adhesion and Motility: Dissertation

Karoliina Vuoriluoto

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


Cell migration and adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM) are crucial in many biological and pathological processes such as morphogenesis, tissue repair, inflammatory responses, survival, and cancer. Cell-matrix adhesion is mediated by the integrin family of transmembrane receptors, which not only anchor cells to their surroundings, but also transmit bidirectional signalling at the cell surface and couple the ECM to the cytoskeleton. Another group of adhesion receptors are the syndecan proteoglycans, which engage the ECM and possess signalling activity in response to a variety of ligands. Cell migration is a complex process that requires spatial and temporal coordination of adhesion, cell contractility, intracellular traffic of integrins, and matrix turnover by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Thus, integrins and syndecans, as well as MMPs, play essential roles in cancer cell migration and invasion. The understanding of the cooperation of syndecans and integrins was broadened in this thesis study. The results reveal that syndecan-1 functions in concert with α2β1 integrin in cell adhesion to collagen, whereas syndecan-4 is essential in α2β1 integrin-mediated matrix contraction. Finally, oncogenic K-Ras was shown to regulate α2β1 integrin, membrane-type 1 MMP, and syndecan-1 and -4 expression and their cooperation in cell invasion.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is fundamental during embryogenesis and organ development. Activation of EMT processes, including the upregulation of mesenchymal intermediate filament protein vimentin, has also been implicated in the acquisition of a malignant phenotype by epithelial cancer cells. Members of the protein kinase C (PKC) superfamily are involved in cell migration and various integrindependent cellular functions. One aim of this work was to shed light on the role of vimentin in the regulation of integrin traffic and cell motility. In addition, the mechanism by which vimentin participates in EMT was investigated. The results show that integrin recycling and motility are dependent on the PKCε–mediated phosphorylation of vimentin. In addition, vimentin was found to be a positive regulator of EMT and regulate the expression of several migratory genes. Specifically, vimentin governs the expression of receptor tyrosine kinase Axl, which is implicated in tumour growth and metastasis.

Taken together, the findings described in this thesis reveal novel aspects of the complex interplay between distinct cellular components: integrins, syndecans, and the vimentin cytoskeleton, which all contribute to the regulation of human cancer cell adhesion, migration, and invasion.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • University of Turku
  • Ivaska, Johanna, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationTurku
Print ISBNs978-951-29-4470-5
Electronic ISBNs978-951-29-4471-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • Integrin
  • syndecan
  • vimentin
  • Axl1
  • adhesion
  • migration


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