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J Immunol. 1999 Jan 15;162(2):1084-95.

High affinity very late antigen-4 subsets expressed on T cells are mandatory for spontaneous adhesion strengthening but not for rolling on VCAM-1 in shear flow.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


The very late Ag-4 (VLA-4) integrin supports both rolling and firm adhesion of leukocytes on VCAM-1 under shear flow. The molecular basis for the unique ability of a single adhesion molecule to mediate these versatile adhesive processes was investigated. VLA-4 occurs in multiple activation states, with different affinities to ligand. In this study we tested how these states regulate VLA-4 adhesiveness under shear flow in Jurkat T cells and PBL. VLA-4 on nonstimulated Jurkat cells supported rolling and spontaneous arrest on VCAM-1, whereas a Jurkat activation mutant with reduced VLA-4 affinity failed to spontaneously arrest after tethering to or during rolling on VCAM-1. The contribution of VLA-4 affinity for ligand to rolling and spontaneous arrests on immobilized VCAM-1 was dissected using soluble VLA-4 ligands, which selectively block high affinity states. VLA-4 saturation with ligand completely blocked spontaneous adhesion strengthening post-tethering to VCAM-1, but did not impair rolling on the endothelial ligand. High affinity VLA-4 was found to comprise a small subset of VLA-4 on resting Jurkat cells and PBL. This subset is essential for firm adhesion but not for tethering or rolling adhesions on VCAM-1. Interestingly, low and high affinity VLA-4 states were found to mediate similar initial tethering to ligand. High affinity VLA-4, constitutively expressed on circulating T cells, may control their early adhesion strengthening on VCAM-1-expressing endothelium before exposure to vascular chemokines and activation of additional integrins.

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