Doud, M.B., et al. An unexpected fold in the circumsporozoite protein target of malaria vaccines. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 7817-22 (2012).Abstract

Circumsporozoite (CS) protein is the major surface component of Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites and is essential for host cell invasion. A vaccine containing tandem repeats, region III, and thrombospondin type-I repeat (TSR) of CS is efficacious in phase III trials but gives only a 35% reduction in severe malaria in the first year postimmunization. We solved crystal structures showing that region III and TSR fold into a single unit, an "αTSR" domain. The αTSR domain possesses a hydrophobic pocket and core, missing in TSR domains. CS binds heparin, but αTSR does not. Interestingly, polymorphic T-cell epitopes map to specialized αTSR regions. The N and C termini are unexpectedly close, providing clues for sporozoite sheath organization. Elucidation of a unique structure of a domain within CS enables rational design of next-generation subunit vaccines and functional and medicinal chemical investigation of the conserved hydrophobic pocket.

Dong, X., et al. αVβ3 integrin crystal structures and their functional implications. Biochemistry 51, 8814-28 (2012).Abstract

Many questions about the significance of structural features of integrin α(V)β(3) with respect to its mechanism of activation remain. We have determined and re-refined crystal structures of the α(V)β(3) ectodomain linked to C-terminal coiled coils (α(V)β(3)-AB) and four transmembrane (TM) residues in each subunit (α(V)β(3)-1TM), respectively. The α(V) and β(3) subunits with four and eight extracellular domains, respectively, are bent at knees between the integrin headpiece and lower legs, and the headpiece has the closed, low-affinity conformation. The structures differ in the occupancy of three metal-binding sites in the βI domain. Occupancy appears to be related to the pH of crystallization, rather than to the physiologic regulation of ligand binding at the central, metal ion-dependent adhesion site. No electron density was observed for TM residues and much of theα(V) linker. α(V)β(3)-AB and α(V)β(3)-1TM demonstrate flexibility in the linker between their extracellular and TM domains, rather than the previously proposed rigid linkage. A previously postulated interface between the α(V) and β(3) subunits at their knees was also not supported, because it lacks high-quality density, required rebuilding in α(V)β(3)-1TM, and differed markedly between α(V)β(3)-1TM and α(V)β(3)-AB. Together with the variation in domain-domain orientation within their bent ectodomains between α(V)β(3)-AB and α(V)β(3)-1TM, these findings are compatible with the requirement for large structural changes, such as extension at the knees and headpiece opening, in conveying activation signals between the extracellular ligand-binding site and the cytoplasm.

Shi, M., et al. Latent TGF-β structure and activation. Nature 474, 7351, 343-9 (2011).Abstract

Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is stored in the extracellular matrix as a latent complex with its prodomain. Activation of TGF-β1 requires the binding of α(v) integrin to an RGD sequence in the prodomain and exertion of force on this domain, which is held in the extracellular matrix by latent TGF-β binding proteins. Crystals of dimeric porcine proTGF-β1 reveal a ring-shaped complex, a novel fold for the prodomain, and show how the prodomain shields the growth factor from recognition by receptors and alters its conformation. Complex formation between α(v)β(6) integrin and the prodomain is insufficient for TGF-β1 release. Force-dependent activation requires unfastening of a 'straitjacket' that encircles each growth-factor monomer at a position that can be locked by a disulphide bond. Sequences of all 33 TGF-β family members indicate a similar prodomain fold. The structure provides insights into the regulation of a family of growth and differentiation factors of fundamental importance in morphogenesis and homeostasis.

Zhou, Y.F., et al. A pH-regulated dimeric bouquet in the structure of von Willebrand factor. EMBO J. 30, 19, 4098-111 (2011).Abstract

At the acidic pH of the trans-Golgi and Weibel-Palade bodies (WPBs), but not at the alkaline pH of secretion, the C-terminal ∼1350 residues of von Willebrand factor (VWF) zip up into an elongated, dimeric bouquet. Six small domains visualized here for the first time between the D4 and cystine-knot domains form a stem. The A2, A3, and D4 domains form a raceme with three pairs of opposed, large, flower-like domains. N-terminal VWF domains mediate helical tubule formation in WPBs and template N-terminal disulphide linkage between VWF dimers, to form ultralong VWF concatamers. The dimensions we measure in VWF at pH 6.2 and 7.4, and the distance between tubules in nascent WPB, suggest that dimeric bouquets are essential for correct VWF dimer incorporation into growing tubules and to prevent crosslinking between neighbouring tubules. Further insights into the structure of the domains and flexible segments in VWF provide an overall view of VWF structure important for understanding both the biogenesis of ultralong concatamers at acidic pH and flow-regulated changes in concatamer conformation in plasma at alkaline pH that trigger hemostasis.

Schürpf, T. & Springer, T.A. Regulation of integrin affinity on cell surfaces. EMBO J. 30, 23, 4712-27 (2011).Abstract

Lymphocyte activation triggers adhesiveness of lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1; integrin α(L)β(2)) for intercellular adhesion molecules (ICAMs) on endothelia or antigen-presenting cells. Whether the activation signal, after transmission through multiple domains to the ligand-binding αI domain, results in affinity changes for ligand has been hotly debated. Here, we present the first comprehensive measurements of LFA-1 affinities on T lymphocytes for ICAM-1 under a broad array of activating conditions. Only a modest increase in affinity for soluble ligand was detected after activation by chemokine or T-cell receptor ligation, conditions that primed LFA-1 and robustly induced lymphocyte adhesion to ICAM-1 substrates. By stabilizing well-defined LFA-1 conformations by Fab, we demonstrate the absolute requirement of the open LFA-1 headpiece for adhesiveness and high affinity. Interaction of primed LFA-1 with immobilized but not soluble ICAM-1 triggers energy-dependent affinity maturation of LFA-1 to an adhesive, high affinity state. Our results lend support to the traction or translational motion dependence of integrin activation.

Mi, L.-Z., Lu, C., Nishida, N., Walz, T. & Springer, T.A. Simultaneous visualization of the extracellular and cytoplasmic domains of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 18, 9, 984-9 (2011).Abstract

To our knowledge, no structural study to date has characterized, in an intact receptor, the coupling of conformational change in extracellular domains through a single-pass transmembrane domain to conformational change in cytoplasmic domains. Here we examine such coupling, and its unexpected complexity, using nearly full-length epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and negative-stain EM. The liganded, dimeric EGFR ectodomain can couple both to putatively active, asymmetrically associated kinase dimers and to putatively inactive, symmetrically associated kinase dimers and monomers. Inhibitors that stabilize the active or inactive conformation of the kinase active site, as well as mutations in the kinase dimer interface and a juxtamembrane phosphorylation site, shift the equilibrium among the three kinase association states. This coupling of one conformation of an activated receptor ectodomain to multiple kinase-domain arrangements reveals previously unanticipated complexity in transmembrane signaling and facilitates regulation of receptor function in the juxtamembrane and cytoplasmic environments.

Springer, T.A. Biology and physics of von Willebrand factor concatamers. J Thromb Haemost. 9, Suppl 1, 130-143 (2011).Abstract

Structural specialisations enable von Willebrand factor (VWF) to assemble during biosynthesis into helical tubules in Weibel-Palade bodies (WPB). Specialisations include a pH-regulated dimeric bouquet formed by the C-terminal half of VWF and helical assembly guided by the N-terminal half that templates inter-dimer disulphide bridges. Orderly assembly and storage of ultra-long concatamersin helical tubules, without crosslinking of neighboring tubules, enables unfurling during secretion without entanglement. Length regulation occurs post-secretion, by hydrodynamic force-regulated unfolding of the VWF A2 domain, and its cleavage by the plasma protease ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin and metalloprotease with a thrombospondin type 1 motif, member 13). VWF is longest at its site of secretion, where its haemostatic function is most important. Moreover, elongational hydrodynamic forces on VWF are strongest just where needed, when bound to the vessel wall, or in elongational flow in the circulation at sites of vessel rupture or vasoconstriction in haemostasis. Elongational forces regulate haemostasis by activating binding of the A1 domain to platelet GPIbα, and over longer time periods, regulate VWF length by unfolding of the A2 domain for cleavage by ADAMTS13. Recent structures of A2 and single molecule measurements of A2 unfolding and cleavage by ADAMTS13 illuminate the mechanisms of VWF length regulation. Single molecule studies on the A1-GPIb receptor-ligand bond demonstrate a specialised flex-bond that enhances resistance to the strong hydrodynamic forces experienced at sites of haemorrhage.

© 2011 International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

Weitz-Schmidt, G., Schurpf, T. & Springer, T.A. The C-terminal αI domain linker as a critical structural element in the conformational activation of αI integrins. J Biol Chem. 286, 49, 42115-22 (2011).Abstract

The activation of α/β heterodimeric integrins is the result of highly coordinated rearrangements within both subunits. The molecular interactions between the two subunits, however, remain to be characterized. In this study we use the integrin α(L)β(2) to investigate the functional role of the C-linker polypeptide, which connects the C-terminal end of the inserted (I) domain with the β-propeller domain on the α subunit and is located at the interface with the βI domain of the β chain. We demonstrate that shortening of the C-linker by eight or more amino acids results in constitutively active α(L)β(2), in which the αI domain is no longer responsive to the regulation by the βI domain. Despite this inter-subunit uncoupling, both I domains individually remain sensitive to intra-subunit conformational changes induced by allosteric modulators. Interestingly, the length and not the sequence of the C-linker appears to be critical for its functionality in the α/β inter-subunit communication. Using two monoclonal antibodies (R7.1 and CBR LFA-1/1) we further demonstrate that shortening of the C-linker results in the gradual loss of combinational epitopes that require both the αI and β-propeller domains for full reactivity. Taken together, our findings highlight the role of the C-linker as a spring-like element which allows relaxation of the αI domain in the resting state and controlled tension of the αI domain during activation, exerted by the β chain.

Eng, E., Smagghe, B., Walz, T. & Springer, T.A. Intact αIIbβ3 extends after activation measured by solution X-ray scattering and electron microscopy. J Biol Chem 286, 40, 35218-35226 (2011).Abstract

Integrins are bidirectional signaling molecules on the cell surface that have fundamental roles in regulating cell behavior and contribute to cell migration and adhesion. Understanding of the mechanism of integrin signaling and activation has been advanced with truncated ectodomain preparations; however, the nature of conformational change in the full-length intact integrin molecule remains an active area of research. Here we used small angle x-ray scattering and electron microscopy to study detergent-solubilized, intact platelet integrin α(IIb)β(3). In the resting state, the intact α(IIb)β(3) adopted a compact, bent conformation. Upon activation with Mn(2+), the average integrin extension increased. Further activation by addition of ligand led to stabilization of the extended state and opening of the headpiece. The observed extension and conformational rearrangement upon activation are consistent with the extension and headpiece opening model of integrin activation

Zhou, M., et al. A novel calcium-binding site of von Willebrand factor A2 domain regulates its cleavage by ADAMTS13. Blood 117, 4623-31 (2011).Abstract

The proteolysis of VWF by ADAMTS13 is an essential step in the regulation of its hemostatic and thrombogenic potential. The cleavage occurs at strand beta4 in the structural core of the A2 domain of VWF, so unfolding of the A2 domain is a prerequisite for cleavage. In the present study, we present the crystal structure of an engineered A2 domain that exhibits a significant difference in the alpha3-beta4 loop compared with the previously reported structure of wild-type A2. Intriguingly, a metal ion was detected at a site formed mainly by the C-terminal region of the alpha3-beta4 loop that was later identified as Ca(2+) after various biophysical and biochemical studies. Force-probe molecular dynamic simulations of a modeled structure of the wild-type A2 featuring the discovered Ca(2+)-binding site revealed that an increase in force was needed to unfold strand beta4 when Ca(2+) was bound. Cleavage assays consistently demonstrated that Ca(2+) binding stabilized the A2 domain and impeded its unfolding, and consequently protected it from cleavage by ADAMTS13. We have revealed a novel Ca(2+)-binding site at the A2 domain of VWF and demonstrated a relationship between Ca(2+) and force in the regulation of VWF and primary hemostasis.

Wang, W., Zhu, J., Springer, T.A. & Luo, B.H. Tests of integrin transmembrane domain homo-oligomerization during integrin ligand binding and signaling. J Biol Chem 286, 1860-7 (2011).Abstract

Integrin transmembrane (TM) and/or cytoplasmic domains play a critical role in integrin bidirectional signaling. Although it has been shown that TM and/or cytoplasmic alpha and beta domains associate in the resting state and separation of these domains is required for both inside-out and outside-in signaling, the role of TM homomeric association remains elusive. Formation of TM homo-oligomers was observed in micelles and bacterial membranes previously, and it has been proposed that homomeric association is important for integrin activation and clustering. This study addresses whether integrin TM domains form homo-oligomers in mammalian cell membranes using cysteine scanning mutagenesis. Our results show that TM homomeric interaction does not occur before or after soluble ligand binding or during inside-out activation. In addition, even though the cysteine mutants and the heterodimeric disulfide-bounded mutant could form clusters after adhering to immobilized ligand, the integrin TM domains do not form homo-oligomers, suggesting that integrin TM homomeric association is not critical for integrin clustering or outside-in signaling. Therefore, integrin TM homo-oligomerization is not required for integrin activation, ligand binding, or signaling.

Kim, J., Zhang, C., Zhang, X. & Springer, T.A. A mechanically stabilized receptor-ligand flex-bond important in the vasculature. Nature 466, 7309, 992-5 (2010).Abstract

Haemostasis in the arteriolar circulation mediated by von Willebrand factor (VWF) binding to platelets is an example of an adhesive interaction that must withstand strong hydrodynamic forces acting on cells. VWF is a concatenated, multifunctional protein that has binding sites for platelets as well as subendothelial collagen. Binding of the A1 domain in VWF to the glycoprotein Ib alpha subunit (GPIbalpha) on the surface of platelets mediates crosslinking of platelets to one another and the formation of a platelet plug for arterioles. The importance of VWF is illustrated by its mutation in von Willebrand disease, a bleeding diathesis. Here, we describe a novel mechanochemical specialization of the A1-GPIbalpha bond for force-resistance. We have developed a method that enables, for the first time, repeated measurements of the binding and unbinding of a receptor and ligand in a single molecule (ReaLiSM). We demonstrate two states of the receptor-ligand bond, that is, a flex-bond. One state is seen at low force; a second state begins to engage at 10 pN with a approximately 20-fold longer lifetime and greater force resistance. The lifetimes of the two states, how force exponentiates lifetime, and the kinetics of switching between the two states are all measured. For the first time, single-molecule measurements on this system are in agreement with bulk phase measurements. The results have important implications not only for how platelets bound to VWF are able to resist force to plug arterioles, but also how increased flow activates platelet plug formation.

Smagghe, B., Huang, P., Ban, Y.-E., Baker, D. & Springer, T.A. Modulation of integrin activation by an entropic spring in the β-knee. J Biol Chem. 285, 43, 32954-66 (2010).Abstract

We show that the length of a loop in the β-knee, between the first and second cysteines (C1-C2) in integrin EGF-like (I-EGF) domain 2, modulates integrin activation. Three independent sets of mutants, including swaps among different integrin β-subunits, show that C1-C2 loop lengths of 12 and longer favor the low affinity state and masking of ligand-induced binding site (LIBS) epitopes. Shortening length from 12 to 4 residues progressively increases ligand binding and LIBS epitope exposure. Compared with length, the loop sequence had a smaller effect, which was ascribable to stabilizing loop conformation, and not interactions with the α-subunit. The data together with structural calculations support the concept that the C1-C2 loop is an entropic spring and an emerging theme that disordered regions can regulate allostery. Diversity in the length of this loop may have evolved among integrin β-subunits to adjust the equilibrium between the bent and extended conformations at different set points.

Lu, C., et al. Structural Evidence for Loose Linkage between Ligand Binding and Kinase Activation in the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. Mol Cell Biol. 30, 22, 5432-43 (2010).Abstract

The mechanisms by which signals are transmitted across the plasma membrane to regulate signaling are largely unknown for receptors with single-pass transmembrane domains such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). A crystal structure of the extracellular domain of EGFR dimerized by epidermal growth factor (EGF) reveals the extended, rod-like domain IV and a small, hydrophobic domain IV interface compatible with flexibility. The crystal structure and disulfide cross-linking suggest that the 7-residue linker between the extracellular and transmembrane domains is flexible. Disulfide cross-linking of the transmembrane domain shows that EGF stimulates only moderate association in the first two α-helical turns, in contrast to association throughout the membrane over five α-helical turns in glycophorin A and integrin. Furthermore, systematic mutagenesis to leucine and phenylalanine suggests that no specific transmembrane interfaces are required for EGFR kinase activation. These results suggest that linkage between ligand-induced dimerization and tyrosine kinase activation is much looser than was previously envisioned.

Xie, C., et al. Structure of an integrin with an αI domain, complement receptor type 4. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 12, 4586-91 (2010).Abstract

Integrin α(X)β(2) functions as complement receptor for iC3b and mediates recognition and phagocytosis of pathogens. We used negative-stain EM to examine the α(X)β(2) interaction with iC3b. EM class averages of α(X)β(2) in complex with iC3b define the binding sites on both the integrin and iC3b. iC3b contains C3c and thioester domain moieties linked by a long flexible linker. The binding site is on the key ring of the C3c moiety, at the interface between the MG3 and MG4 domains. Similar complexes are seen between α(X)β(2) and the C3c fragment. α(X)β(2) binds through the α(X) αI domain, on the face known to bear the metal ion-dependent adhesion site, at the opposite end of the αI domain from its site of insertion in the β-propeller domain.

Pan, Y., et al. A cation-π interaction regulates ligand binding affinity and signaling of integrin α4β7. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 21388-21393 (2010).Abstract

Integrin α(4)β(7) mediates rolling and firm adhesion of leucocytes, two of the critical steps in leukocyte migration and tissue specific homing. Affinity of α(4)β(7) for ligand is dynamically regulated by three interlinked metal ion-binding sites in β(7)-subunit I domain. In this study, we found that Phe185 (F185), a highly conserved aromatic residue in β(7)-subunit, links the specificity-determining loop and the synergistic metal ion-binding site (SyMBS) through cation-π interaction. Mutations of F185 that disrupted the SyMBS cation-F185 interaction led to deficient firm cell adhesion mediated by high affinity α(4)β(7), and only slightly affected rolling adhesion mediated by low affinity α(4)β(7). Disruption of SyMBS cation-F185 interaction induced partial extension of integrin ectodomain and separation of cytoplasmic tails, and impaired α(4)β(7)-mediated bidirectional signaling. In addition, loss of SyMBS cation-F185 interaction increased paxillin expression and promoted paxillin-integrin binding, leading to deficient cell spreading. Furthermore, integrin α(4)β(7)-mediated cell migration was decreased by the abolishment of SyMBS cation-F185 interaction. Thus, these findings reveal a cation-π interaction playing vital roles in the regulation of integrin affinity, signaling, and biological functions.

Zhu, J., et al. The closed headpiece of integrin αIIbβ3 and its complex with an αIIbβ3-specific antagonist that does not induce opening. Blood 116, 5050-9 (2010).Abstract

The platelet integrin α(IIb)β(3) is essential for hemostasis and thrombosis through its binding of adhesive plasma proteins. We have determined crystal structures of the α(IIb)β(3) headpiece in the absence of ligand and after soaking in RUC-1, a novel small molecule antagonist. In the absence of ligand, the α(IIb)β(3) headpiece is in a closed conformation, distinct from the open conformation visualized in presence of Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) antagonists. In contrast to RGD antagonists, RUC-1 binds only to the α(IIb) subunit. Molecular dynamics revealed nearly identical binding. Two species-specific residues, α(IIb) Y190 and α(IIb) D232, in the RUC-1 binding site were confirmed as important by mutagenesis. In sharp contrast to RGD-based antagonists, RUC-1 did not induce α(IIb)β(3) to adopt an open conformation, as determined by gel filtration and dynamic light scattering. These studies provide insights into the factors that regulate integrin headpiece opening, and demonstrate the molecular basis for a novel mechanism of integrin antagonism.

Owens, R.M., Gu, X., Shin, M., Springer, T.A. & Jin, M.M. Engineering of single Ig superfamily domain of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) for native fold and function. J Biol Chem. 285, 15906-15 (2010).Abstract

The immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily is one of the largest families in the vertebrate genome, found most frequently in cell surface molecules. Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) contains five extracellular Ig superfamily domains (D1-D5) of which the first domain, D1, is the binding site for the integrin lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) and human rhinovirus. Despite the modular nature of many Ig superfamily domains with respect to domain folding and ligand recognition, D1 does not fold on its own due to the loss of its interaction with the second domain. The goal of this study was to engineer ICAM-1 D1 by introducing mutations that would stabilize the Ig superfamily domain fold while retaining its ability to bind to LFA-1 and rhinovirus. First, with a directed evolution approach, we isolated mutations in D1 that showed binding to conformation-specific antibodies and the ligand binding domain of LFA-1 called the inserted, or I, domain. Then, with a rational design approach we introduced mutations that contributed to the stability of ICAM-1 D1 in solution. The mutations that restored native folding of D1 in isolation were those that would convert hydrogen bond networks in buried regions into hydrophobic contacts. Notably, for most mutations, identical or similar types of substitutions were found in ICAM-1 molecules of different species and other ICAM family members. The systematic approach demonstrated in this study to engineer a single Ig superfamily fold in ICAM-1 can be broadly applicable to the engineering of modular Ig superfamily domains in other cell surface molecules.

Chen, X., et al. Requirement of open headpiece conformation for activation of leukocyte integrin αXβ2. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 14727-32 (2010).Abstract

Negative stain electron microscopy (EM) and adhesion assays show that alpha(X)beta(2) integrin activation requires headpiece opening as well as extension. An extension-inducing Fab to the beta(2) leg, in combination with representative activating and inhibitory Fabs, were examined for effect on the equilibrium between the open and closed headpiece conformations. The two activating Fabs stabilized the open headpiece conformation. Conversely, two different inhibitory Fabs stabilized the closed headpiece conformation. Adhesion assays revealed that alpha(X)beta(2) in the extended-open headpiece conformation had high affinity for ligand, whereas both the bent conformation and the extended-closed headpiece conformation represented the low affinity state. Intermediate integrin affinity appears to result not from a single conformational state, but from a mixture of equilibrating conformational states.

Zhang, X., Halvorsen, K., Zhang, C.Z., Wong, W.P. & Springer, T.A. Mechanoenzymatic cleavage of the ultralarge vascular protein, von Willebrand Factor. Science 324, 5932, 1330-4 (2009).Abstract

Von Willebrand factor (VWF) is secreted as ultralarge multimers that are cleaved in the A2 domain by the metalloprotease ADAMTS13 to give smaller multimers. Cleaved VWF is activated by hydrodynamic forces found in arteriolar bleeding to promote hemostasis, whereas uncleaved VWF is activated at lower, physiologic shear stresses and causes thrombosis. Single-molecule experiments demonstrate that elongational forces in the range experienced by VWF in the vasculature unfold the A2 domain, and only the unfolded A2 domain is cleaved by ADAMTS13. In shear flow, tensile force on a VWF multimer increases with the square of multimer length and is highest at the middle, providing an efficient mechanism for homeostatic regulation of VWF size distribution by force-induced A2 unfolding and cleavage by ADAMTS13, as well as providing a counterbalance for VWF-mediated platelet aggregation.