A gene trap-type targeting vector was designed to inactivate the beta 1 integrin gene in embryonic stem (ES) cells. Using this vector more than 50% of the ES cell clones acquired a disruption in the beta 1 integrin gene and a single clone was mutated in both alleles. The homozygous mutant did not produce beta 1 integrin mRNA or protein, while alpha 3, alpha 5, and alpha 6 integrin subunits were transcribed but not detectable on the cell surface. Heterozygous mutants showed reduced beta 1 expression and surface localization of alpha/beta 1 heterodimers. The alpha V subunit expression was not impaired on any of the mutants. Homozygous ES cell mutants lacked adhesiveness for laminin and fibronectin but not for vitronectin and showed a reduced association with a fibroblast feeder layer. Furthermore, they did not migrate towards chemoattractants in fibroblast medium. None of these functions were impaired in heterozygous mutants. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that homozygous cells showed fewer cell-cell junctions and had many microvilli not usually found on wild type and heterozygous cells. This profound change in cell shape is not associated with gross alterations in the expression and distribution of cytoskeletal components. Unexpectedly, microinjection into blastocysts demonstrated full integration of homozygous and heterozygous mutants into the inner cell mass. This will allow studies of the consequences of beta 1 integrin deficiency in several in vivo situations.

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