[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The integrin alpha6 subunit is part of the alpha6beta1 and alpha6beta4 integrin complexes, which are known to be receptors for laminins and to mediate several biological activities such as embryogenesis, organogenesis, and invasion of carcinoma cells. However, the precise role of alpha6 integrin in angiogenesis has not yet been addressed. We observed that both vascular endothelial growth factor-A and fibroblast growth factor-2 strongly upregulate alpha6 integrin in human endothelial cells. Moreover, alpha6 integrin was positively modulated in angiogenic vessels in pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma. In this transgenic mouse model of spontaneous tumorigenesis, alpha6 integrin expression increased in the angiogenic stage, while being expressed at low levels in normal and hyperplastic tissue. We studied the functional role of alpha6 integrin during angiogenesis by lentivirus-mediated gene silencing and blocking antibody. Cell migration and morphogenesis on basement membrane extracts, a laminin-rich matrix, was reduced in endothelial cells expressing low levels of alpha6 integrin. However, we did not observe any differences in collagen matrices. Similar results were obtained in the aortic ring angiogenesis assay. alpha6 integrin was required for vessel sprouting on basement membrane gels but not on collagen gels, as shown by stably silencing this integrin in the murine aorta. Finally, a neutralizing anti-alpha6 integrin antibody inhibited in vivo angiogenesis in chicken chorioallantoic membrane and transgenic tumor mouse model. In summary, we showed that the alpha6 integrin participated in vascular endothelial growth factor-A and fibroblast growth factor-2-driven angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that it might be an attractive target for therapeutic approaches in angiogenesis-dependent diseases such as tumor growth.