We have examined the mechanism by which collagen-binding integrins co-operate with insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) receptors (IGF-IR) to regulate chondrocyte phenotype and differentiation. Adhesion of chondrocytes to anti-β1 integrin antibodies or collagen type II leads to phosphorylation of cytoskeletal and signalling proteins localized at focal adhesions, including α-actinin, vinculin, paxillin and focal adhesion kinase (FAK). These stimulate docking proteins such as Shc (Src-homology collagen). Moreover, exposure of collagen type II-cultured chondrocytes to IGF-I leads to co-immunoprecipitation of Shc protein with the IGF-IR and with β1, α1 and α5 integrins, but not with α3 integrin. Shc then associates with growth factor receptor-bound protein 2 (Grb2), an adaptor protein and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. The expression of the docking protein Shc occurs only when chondrocytes are bound to collagen type II or integrin antibodies and increases when IGF-I is added, suggesting a collaboration between integrins and growth factors in a common/shared biochemical signalling pathway. Furthermore, these results indicate that focal adhesion assembly may facilitate signalling via Shc, a potential common target for signal integration between integrin and growth-factor signalling regulatory pathways. Thus, the collagen-binding integrins and IGF-IR co-operate to regulate focal adhesion components and these signalling pathways have common targets (Shc-Grb2 complex) in subcellular compartments, thereby linking to the Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling pathway. These events may play a role during chondrocyte differentiation.

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