In this paper we report that the integrin complex alpha 1/beta 1, a laminin/collagen receptor, is expressed on cultured foreskin microvascular endothelium, but is absent on endothelial cells from large vessels such as the aorta and umbilical and femoral veins. The restricted expression of integrin alpha 1/beta 1 to microvascular endothelium was also demonstrated in vivo, by immunohistochemical staining of human tissue sections. Alpha 1 specific antibodies reacted strongly with endothelial cells of small blood vessels and capillaries in several tissues, but not with endothelium of vein and arteries of umbilical cord. Expression of integrin alpha 1 can be induced in cultured umbilical vein endothelial cells by treatment with 5 ng/ml tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha). Induction of alpha 1 subunit expression also occurred after treatment of umbilical vein endothelium with 10(-5) M retinoic acid or with 10 nM PMA; Maximal induction of alpha 1 integrin was reached after 48 h of treatment and costimulation with TNF alpha and PMA resulted in a synergistic effect. The induction of alpha 1 integrin changed the adhesive properties of umbilical vein endothelial cells, by increasing the adhesiveness to collagen, laminin, and laminin fragment P1, while adhesion to fibronectin and laminin fragment E8 remained constant. The alpha 1 integrin is thus a marker of a specific population of endothelial cells and its expression confers distinctive properties of interaction with the underlying basal membrane.

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