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Biochem J. 2009 Nov 11;424(2):179-89. doi: 10.1042/BJ20090992.

Mapping the ligand-binding pocket of integrin alpha5beta1 using a gain-of-function approach.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, Faculty of Life Sciences, Michael Smith Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Integrin alpha5beta1 is a key receptor for the extracellular matrix protein fibronectin. Antagonists of human integrin alpha5beta1 have therapeutic potential as anti-angiogenic agents in cancer and diseases of the eye. However, the structure of the integrin is unsolved and the atomic basis of fibronectin and antagonist binding by integrin alpha5beta1 is poorly understood. In the present study, we demonstrate that zebrafish alpha5beta1 integrins do not interact with human fibronectin or the human alpha5beta1 antagonists JSM6427 and cyclic peptide CRRETAWAC. Zebrafish alpha5beta1 integrins do bind zebrafish fibronectin-1, and mutagenesis of residues on the upper surface and side of the zebrafish alpha5 subunit beta-propeller domain shows that these residues are important for the recognition of the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) motif and the synergy sequence [Pro-His-Ser-Arg-Asn (PHSRN)] in fibronectin. Using a gain-of-function analysis involving swapping regions of the zebrafish integrin alpha5 subunit with the corresponding regions of human alpha5 we show that blades 1-4 of the beta-propeller are required for human fibronectin recognition, suggesting that fibronectin binding involves a broad interface on the side and upper face of the beta-propeller domain. We find that the loop connecting blades 2 and 3 of the beta-propeller, the D3-A3 loop, contains residues critical for antagonist recognition, with a minor role played by residues in neighbouring loops. A new homology model of human integrin alpha5beta1 supports an important function for D3-A3 loop residues Trp157 and Ala158 in the binding of antagonists. These results will aid the development of reagents that block integrin alpha5beta1 functions in vivo.

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