Akt, a serine-threonine kinase, regulates multiple cellular processes in vascular cells. We have previously documented that Akt activates integrins and Akt1 deficiency results in matrix abnormalities in skin and blood vessels in vivo. Based on these observations, we hypothesized that Akt1 is necessary for integrin activation and matrix assembly by fibroblasts. In this study, using various cell systems, we show that Akt1 is essential for the inside-out activation of integrins in endothelial cells and fibroblasts, which in turn, mediates matrix assembly. Fibronectin is a major extracellular matrix component of the skin and the vascular basement membrane, which possesses binding sites for many integrins and extracellular matrix proteins. Akt1(-/-) fibroblasts and NIH fibroblasts expressing dominant negative Akt1 (K179M-Akt1) showed impaired fibronectin assembly compared with control fibroblasts. In contrast, expression of constitutively active Akt1 (myrAkt1) resulted in enhanced fibronectin assembly. Although increased fibronectin assembly by myrAkt1-expressing human foreskin fibroblasts was abolished by treatment with anti-integrin beta(1) blocking antibodies, treatment with beta(1)-stimulating antibodies rescued the impaired fibronectin assembly that was due to lack of Akt activity. Finally, expression of myrAkt1 corrected the phenotype of Akt1(-/-) fibroblasts thus showing that Akt1 regulates fibronectin assembly through activation of integrin alpha(5)beta(1).
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