α6-Integrin alternative splicing: distinct cytoplasmic variants in stem cell fate specification and niche interaction
Stem Cell Research & Therapy
α6-Integrin subunit (also known as CD49f) is a stemness signature that has been found on the plasma membrane of more than 30 stem cell populations. A growing body of studies have focused on the critical role of α6-containing integrins (α6β1 and α6β4) in the regulation of stem cell properties, lineage-specific differentiation, and niche interaction. α6-Integrin subunit can be alternatively spliced at the post-transcriptional level, giving rise to divergent isoforms which differ in the
... and/or extracellular domains. The cytoplasmic domain of integrins is an important functional part of integrin-mediated signals. Structural changes in the cytoplasmic domain of α6 provide an efficient means for the regulation of stem cell responses to biochemical stimuli and/or biophysical cues in the stem cell niche, thus impacting stem cell fate determination. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the structural variants of the α6integrin subunit and spatiotemporal expression of α6 cytoplasmic variants in embryonic and adult stem/progenitor cells. We highlight the roles of α6 cytoplasmic variants in stem cell fate decision and niche interaction, and discuss the potential mechanisms involved. Understanding of the distinct functions of α6 splicing variants in stem cell biology may inform the rational design of novel stem cell-based therapies for a range of human diseases.