Cell surface adhesion molecules and adhesion-initiated signaling: Understanding of anoikis resistance mechanisms and therapeutic opportunities

Xiaoling Zhong, Frederick J. Rescorla

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

73 Scopus citations


Cells express various cell surface adhesion molecules (receptors) that not only mechanically serve as contacting sites between the cell and extracellular matrix (ECM) or adjacent cells, but also initiate intracellular signaling pathways modulating important cellular events including survival and proliferation. Normal cells undergo apoptosis when lacking ECM attachment. This type of cell death has been termed anoikis. Anoikis can be viewed as a normal process which ensures tissue homeostasis and failure to execute the anoikis program or resistance to anoikis could result in adherent cells surviving under suspension condition and proliferating at ectopic sites where the matrix proteins are different from those the cells originally contact. Resistance to anoikis is emerging as a hallmark of metastatic cancers which enables cancer cells to disseminate to distant organs through systemic circulation. In this review, we will discuss the molecular basis of adhesion-initiated signaling, the impact of loss of cell-ECM adhesion on normal cell survival, the role of cancer cell aggregate formation via intercellular adhesion under non-adherent condition, and mechanisms of anoikis resistance developed in metastatic cancer cells. Understanding of these aspects will provide opportunities to find new potential molecular targets, and therapeutic strategies based on these findings will likely prove to be more specific and effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-401
Number of pages9
JournalCellular Signalling
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012



  • Anoikis resistance
  • Cancer metastasis
  • Cell-matrix adhesion
  • Intercellular adhesion
  • Multicellular aggregate
  • Survival signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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