As increase in collagen deposition is no longer taken as simply a consequence but, rather, an inducer of disease progression; therefore, the understanding of collagen signal transduction is fundamentally important. Cells contain at least two types of collagen receptors: integrins and discoidin domain receptors (DDRs). The integrin heterodimers α1β1, α2β1, α10β1, and α11β1 are recognized as the non-tyrosine kinase collagen receptors. DDR1 and 2, the tyrosine kinase receptors of collagen, are specifically expressed in epithelium and mesenchyme, respectively. While integrin β1 and DDR1 are both required for cell adhesion on collagen, their roles in epithelial cell differentiation during development and disease progression seem to counteract each other, with integrin β1 favoring epithelium mesenchyme transition (EMT) and DDR1 inducing epithelial cell differentiation. The in vitro evidence shows that the integrin β1 and DDR1 exert opposing actions in regulation of membrane stability of E-cadherin, which itself is a critical regulator of epithelial cell differentiation. Here, we review the functional roles of integrin β1 and DDR1 in regulation of epithelial cell differentiation during development and disease progression, and explore the underlining mechanisms regarding to the regulation of membrane stability of E-cadherin.
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