The interactions of integrins with extracellular matrix proteins can activate focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and suppress apoptosis in normal epithelial and endothelial cells; this subset of apoptosis has been termed "anoikis." Here, we demonstrate that FAK plays a role in the suppression of anoikis. Constitutively activated forms of FAK rescued two established epithelial cell lines from anoikis. Both the major autophosphorylation site (Y397) and a site critical to the kinase activity (K454) of FAK were required for this effect. Activated FAK also transformed MDCK cells, by the criteria of anchorage-independent growth and tumor formation in nude mice. We provide evidence that this transformation resulted primarily from the cells' resistance to anoikis rather than from the activation of growth factor response pathways. These results indicate that FAK can regulate anoikis and that the conferral of anoikis resistance may suffice to transform certain epithelial cells.

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