Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine exerting pleiotropic effects on endothelial cells. Depending on the vascular context it can induce endothelial cell activation and survival or death. The microenvironmental cues determining whether endothelial cells will survive or die, however, have remained elusive. Here we report that integrin ligation acts permissive for TNF-induced protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) but not nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation. Concomitant activation of PKB/Akt and NF-κB is essential for the survival of endothelial cells exposed to TNF. Active PKB/Akt strengthens integrin-dependent endothelial cell adhesion, whereas disruption of actin stress fibers abolishes the protective effect of PKB/Akt. Integrin-mediated adhesion also represses TNF-induced JNK activation, but JNK activity is not required for cell death. The αVβ3/αVβ5 integrin inhibitor EMD121974 sensitizes endothelial cells to TNF-dependent cytotoxicity and active PKB/Akt attenuates this effect. Interferon γ synergistically enhanced TNF-induced endothelial cell death in all conditions tested. Taken together, these observations reveal a novel permissive role for integrins in TNF-induced PKB/Akt activation and prevention of TNF-induced death distinct of NF-κB, and implicate the actin cytoskeleton in PKB/Akt-mediated cell survival. The sensitizing effect of EMD121974 on TNF cytotoxicity may open new perspectives to the therapeutic use of TNF as anticancer agent.
- Cell death