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The alpha(2)beta(1) integrin supports cell-cycle progression of mammary epithelial cells adherent to type I collagen matrices. Integrin collagen receptors containing the alpha(2) cytoplasmic domain stimulated expression of cyclin E and cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk)2, resulting in cyclin E/cdk2 activation in the absence of growth factors other than insulin. Integrin collagen receptors in which the alpha(2) cytoplasmic domain was replaced by the alpha(1) cytoplasmic domain or an alpha(2) subunit cytoplasmic domain truncated after the GFFKR sequence failed to stimulate cyclin E/cdk2 activation or entry into S phase in the absence of growth factors. Although overexpression of cyclins D or E or cdk2 in cells expressing the integrin collagen receptor with the alpha(1)-integrin cytoplasmic domain did not restore G(1) progression when mammary epithelial cells adhered to type I collagen, co-expression of cyclin E and cdk2 did rescue the ability of the transfectants to enter S phase. Activation of cyclin E/cdk2 complex by mammary epithelial cells required synergy between adhesion mediated by an integrin collagen receptor containing the alpha(2)-integrin subunit cytoplasmic domain and the insulin receptor.