Cells within the vascular wall connect their cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix (ECM) through a family of cell surface receptors known as integrins. The ability of integrins to act as a link between the extracellular and intracellular environments allows transmission of inside-out and outside-in signals capable of modulating diverse vascular phenomena. In this review we summarize what is currently known about the involvement of integrins in the control of vascular tone, permeability and remodeling. We discuss the capacity of integrins to act as detectors of injury-generated molecules derived from ECM proteins, as well as the putative role of integrins as mechanosensors for shear and tension. Particular attention is given to the mechanisms responsible for linking integrins to the control of vascular tone, and we review the intracellular signaling pathways involved in effecting the vascular responses elicited by integrin activation. Finally, the involvement of integrins in vascular remodeling and vascular disease is analyzed. Considerable evidence strongly indicates that integrins are involved in both acute and chronic vascular control. Understanding the elements and the sequence of events linking integrins with vasoregulation is important for deciphering phenomena such as the pressure-dependent myogenic response, flow-dependent changes in vascular diameter, and vascular remodeling as they occur in physiological and pathological conditions. Further understanding of the role of integrins in vascular control holds promise as new avenues for prophylactic and therapeutic manipulation of vascular phenomena.

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