Eight integrin α-β heterodimers recognize ligands with an Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) motif. However, the structural mechanism by which integrins differentiate among extracellular proteins with RGD motifs is not understood. Here, crystal structures, mutations and peptide-affinity measurements show that αVβ6 binds with high affinity to a RGDLXXL/I motif within the prodomains of TGF-β1 and TGF-β3. The LXXL/I motif forms an amphipathic α-helix that binds in a hydrophobic pocket in the β6 subunit. Elucidation of the basis for ligand binding specificity by the integrin β subunit reveals contributions by three different βI-domain loops, which we designatespecificity-determining loops (SDLs) 1, 2 and 3. Variation in a pair of single key residues in SDL1 and SDL3 correlates with the variation of the entire β subunit in integrin evolution, thus suggesting a paradigmatic role in overall β-subunit function.
Integrin α5β1 binds to an Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) motif in its ligand fibronectin. We report high-resolution crystal structures of a four-domain α5β1 headpiece fragment, alone or with RGD peptides soaked into crystals, and RGD peptide affinity measurements. The headpiece crystallizes in a closed conformation essentially identical to that seen previously for α5β1 complexed with a Fab that allosterically inhibits ligand binding by stabilizing the closed conformation. Soaking experiments show that binding of cyclic RGD peptide with 20-fold higher affinity than a linear RGD peptide induces conformational change in the β1-subunit βI domain to a state that is intermediate between closed (low affinity) and open (high affinity). In contrast, binding of a linear RGD peptide induces no shape shifting. However, linear peptide binding induces shape shifting when Ca(2+) is depleted during soaking. Ca(2+) bound to the adjacent to metal ion-dependent adhesion site (ADMIDAS), at the locus of shape shifting, moves and decreases in occupancy, correlating with an increase in affinity for RGD measured when Ca(2+) is depleted. The results directly demonstrate that Ca(2+)binding to the ADMIDAS stabilizes integrins in the low-affinity, closed conformation. Comparisons in affinity between four-domain and six-domain headpiece constructs suggest that flexible integrin leg domains contribute to conformational equilibria. High-resolution views of the hybrid domain interface with the plexin-semaphorin-integrin (PSI) domain in different orientations show a ball-and-socket joint with a hybrid domain Arg side chain that rocks in a PSI domain socket lined with carbonyl oxygens.