Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Integrins in unicellular organisms

Until recently, integrins were thought to be specific to animals. European researchers provided important functional evidence for the role of integrin in unicellular organisms.
Integrins in unicellular organisms
Integrins are a large family of surface proteins known for their adhesive properties. They bind to extracellular matrix ligands, other cell surface receptors or soluble ligands. In addition, integrin heterodimers can bind to other proteins and form the IPP complex that interacts with the cytoskeleton.

The integrin-mediated adhesion and signalling complex has been extensively studied, and a few years ago its presence was discovered in unicellular organisms. Scientists on the EU-funded UNICELLINTEGRIN (Unravelling the function of integrins in the unicellular relatives of Metazoa) project wished to further elucidate the role of integrin in a unicellular context. For this purpose, they worked on Capsaspora owczarzaki and Creolimax fragrantissima, two species closely related to animals.

Significant part of the project was devoted to the development of molecular biology tools and techniques to enable scientists to modulate integrin expression in these unicellular species. They tested RNA interference as well as gene editing for knocking down integrin expression. Despite technological obstacles, the UNICELLINTEGRIN research team worked in close collaboration with companies to develop integrin antibodies specific for unicellular organisms.

Results indicated that integrins had a role in the adhesion of C. owczarzaki cells and their expression was upregulated during the adhesive stage of the organism.

Collectively, the work conducted in this project formed the basis for future studies in these unicellular organisms and for further deciphering the role of integrins through evolution. More projects were initiated including studies investigating the role of integrins in the interaction of C. owczarzaki with its host, the snail Biomphalaria glabrata.

Related information


Integrin, unicellular organisms, adhesion, C. owczarzaki
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