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.

Luo, B.H., Karanicolas, J., Harmacek, L.D., Baker, D. & Springer, T.A. Rationally designed integrin beta3 mutants stabilized in the high affinity conformation. J Biol Chem. 284, 6, 3917-24 (2009).Abstract

Integrins are important cell surface receptors that transmit bidirectional signals across the membrane. It has been shown that a conformational change of the integrin beta-subunit headpiece (i.e. the beta I domain and the hybrid domain) plays a critical role in regulating integrin ligand binding affinity and function. Previous studies have used coarse methods (a glycan wedge, mutations in transmembrane contacts) to force the beta-subunit into either the open or closed conformation. Here, we demonstrate a detailed understanding of this conformational change by applying computational design techniques to select five amino acid side chains that play an important role in the energetic balance between the open and closed conformations of alphaIIbbeta3. Eight single-point mutants were designed at these sites, of which five bound ligands much better than wild type. Further, these mutants were found to be in a more extended conformation than wild type, suggesting that the conformational change at the ligand binding headpiece was propagated to the legs of the integrin. This detailed understanding of the conformational change will assist in the development of allosteric drugs that either stabilize or destabilize specific integrin conformations without occluding the ligand-binding site.

Springer, T.A. Structural basis for selectin mechanochemistry. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106, 1, 91-6 (2009).Abstract

Selectins are adhesion molecules that resist large tensile forces applied by hydrodynamic forces to leukocytes binding to vessel walls. In crystals, the liganded (high-affinity) and unliganded (low-affinity) conformations differ in orientation between their tandem lectin and EGF domains. I examine how tensile force exerted on a selectin-ligand complex in vivo could favor the more extended, high-affinity conformation. Allostery is transmitted from the EGF-lectin domain interface to the ligand-binding interface on the lectin domain, 30 A away. Trp-1 of the lectin domain and the long axis of the EGF domain form an L-shaped prybar that is welded together by hydrogen bonds to the Trp-1 alpha-amino group. Pivoting of the prybar induced by force demolishes an interface between the Trp-1 side chain and the lectin domain at a switch1 region. These changes are transmitted by rigid body movement of the switch2 region to rearrangements in the switch3 region at the ligand binding site. Another switch region corresponds to a single residue in the EGF domain with large effects on ligand binding and rolling adhesion. Allostery in selectins, and the alignment of tensile force on a selectin-ligand complex with the transition pathway for conformational change, explain much of the structural basis for selectin mechanochemistry.

Zhang, Q., Zhou, Y.F., Zhang, C.Z. & Springer, T.A. Structural specializations of A2, a force-sensing domain in the ultralarge vascular protein von Willebrand factor. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106, 23, 9226-31 (2009).Abstract

The lengths of von Willebrand factor (VWF) concatamers correlate with hemostatic potency. After secretion in plasma, length is regulated by hydrodynamic shear force-dependent unfolding of the A2 domain, which is then cleaved by a specific protease. The 1.9-A crystal structure of the A2 domain demonstrates evolutionary adaptations to this shear sensor function. Unique among VWF A (VWA) domains, A2 contains a loop in place of the alpha4 helix, and a cis-proline. The central beta4-strand is poorly packed, with multiple side-chain rotamers. The Tyr-Met cleavage site is buried in the beta4-strand in the central hydrophobic core, and the Tyr structurally links to the C-terminal alpha6-helix. The alpha6-helix ends in 2 Cys residues that are linked by an unusual vicinal disulfide bond that is buried in a hydrophobic pocket. These features may narrow the force range over which unfolding occurs and may also slow refolding. Von Willebrand disease mutations, which presumably lower the force at which A2 unfolds, are illuminated by the structure.

Waldron, T.T. & Springer, T.A. Transmission of Allostery through the Lectin Domain in Selectin-Mediated Cell Adhesion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106, 1, 85-90 (2009).Abstract

The selectins are cell adhesion proteins that must resist applied forces to mediate leukocyte tethering and rolling along the endothelium and have 2 conformational states. Selectin-ligand bond dissociation increases only modestly with applied force, and exhibits catch bond behavior in a low-force regime where bond lifetimes counterintuitively increase with increasing force. Both allosteric and sliding-rebinding models have emerged to explain catch bonds. Here, we introduce a large residue into a cleft that opens within the lectin domain to stabilize the more extended, high-affinity selectin conformation. This mutation stabilizes the high-affinity state, but surprisingly makes rolling less stable. The position of the mutation in the lectin domain provides evidence for an allosteric pathway through the lectin domain, connecting changes at the lectin-EGF interface to the distal binding interface.

Vanhoorelbeke, K., et al. The novel S527F mutation in the integrin β3 chain induces a high affinity αIIbβ3 receptor by hindering adoption of the bent conformation. J Biol Chem. 284, 22, 14917-14918 (2009).Abstract

Three heterozygous mutations were identified in the genes encoding platelet integrin receptor alphaIIbbeta3 in a patient with an ill defined platelet disorder: one in the beta3 gene (S527F) and two in the alphaIIb gene (R512W and L841M). Five stable Chinese hamster ovary cell lines were constructed expressing recombinant alphaIIbbeta3 receptors bearing the individual R512W, L841M, or S527F mutation; both the R512W and L841M mutations; or all three mutations. All receptors were expressed on the cell surface, and mutations R512W and L841M had no effect on integrin function. Interestingly, the beta3 S527F mutation produced a constitutively active receptor. Indeed, both fibrinogen and the ligand-mimetic antibody PAC-1 bound to non-activated alphaIIbbeta3 receptors carrying the S527F mutation, indicating that the conformation of this receptor was altered and corresponded to the high affinity ligand binding state. In addition, the conformational change induced by S527F was evident from basal anti-ligand-induced binding site antibody binding to the receptor. A molecular model bearing this mutation was constructed based on the crystal structure of alphaIIbbeta3 and revealed that the S527F mutation, situated in the third integrin epidermal growth factor-like (I-EGF3) domain, hindered the alphaIIbbeta3 receptor from adopting a wild type-like bent conformation. Movement of I-EGF3 into a cleft in the bent conformation may be hampered both by steric hindrance between Phe(527) in beta3 and the calf-1 domain in alphaIIb and by decreased flexibility between I-EGF2 and I-EGF3.