In the hemopoietic system, interactions between stem cells and components of the bone marrow microenvironment play a pivotal role in blood cell proliferation and differentiation. Among the adhesion molecules, the integrins of the β1-subfamily are known to direct cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and evidence has been provided that CD34-positive stem cells bind either to the bone marrow stroma or to the extracellular matrix proteins through the β1-integrins. It seems that changes in their expression pattern or signalling function are likely to reflect disturbances at the hemopoietic bone marrow microenvironmental level. Any alteration of their biological functions makes them attractive candidates for playing decisive roles in the leukemic processes. In this view, β1-integrins have been recognized to mediate those cellular interactions and migrations that are important in the biology of leukemia. In this paper we review some aspects of the role played by β1-integrins, especially VLA-4 and VLA-5, in adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia in relation with the expression rate of the stem cell antigen CD34.

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