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Normal adult human dermal fibroblasts grown in a three-dimensional collagen lattice increase mRNA level of collagen receptor integrin subunit alpha2 (Xu, J., and R.A.F. Clark. 1996. J. Cell Biol. 132:239- 249.) and DNA binding activity of a nuclear transcription factor, NF-kappaB (Xu, J., and R.A.F. Clark. 1997. J. Cell Biol. 136:473-483.). Here we present evidence that the collagen lattice induced the nuclear translocation of p50, one member of NF-kappaB family, and the degradation of an NF-kappaB inhibitor protein, IkappaB-alpha. The inhibition of NF-kappaB activity by SN50, a peptide inhibitor targeted at nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB, significantly reduced the induction of integrin alpha2 mRNA and protein by the collagen lattice. A region located between -549 and -351 bp in the promoter of integrin alpha2 gene conferred the inducibility by three-dimensional collagen lattice. The presence of either SN50 or IkappaB-alpha32, 36, a stable mutant of IkappaB-alpha, abrogated this inducibility, indicating that the activation of integrin alpha2 gene expression was possibly mediated by NF-kappaB through this region. Although there were three DNA-protein binding complexes forming in this region that are sensitive to the inhibition of NF-kappaB nuclear translocation, NF-kappaB was not directly present in the binding complexes. Therefore, an indirect regulatory mechanism by NF-kappaB in integrin alpha2 gene expression induced by three-dimensional collagen lattice is suggested. The involvement of NF-kappaB in reorganization and contraction of three-dimensional collagen lattice, a process that requires the presence of abundant integrin alpha2beta1, was also examined. The inhibition of NF-kappaB activity by SN50 greatly blocked the contraction, suggesting its critical role in not only the induction of integrin alpha2 gene expression by three-dimensional collagen lattice, but also alpha2beta1-mediated tissue-remodeling process.