Conformational regulation of alpha 4 beta 1-integrin affinity by reducing agents. "Inside-out" signaling is independent of and additive to reduction-regulated integrin activation.
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The alpha(4)beta(1)-integrin (very late antigen-4 (VLA-4), CD49d/CD29) is an adhesion receptor involved in the interaction of lymphocytes, dendritic cells, and stem cells with the extracellular matrix and endothelial cells. This and other integrins have the ability to regulate their affinity for ligands through a process termed "inside-out" signaling that affects cell adhesion avidity. Several mechanisms are known to regulate integrin affinity and conformation: conformational changes induced by separation of the C-terminal tails, divalent ions, and reducing agents. Recently, we described a fluorescent LDV-containing small molecule that was used to monitor VLA-4 affinity changes in live cells (Chigaev, A., Blenc, A. M., Braaten, J. V., Kumaraswamy, N., Kepley, C. L., Andrews, R. P., Oliver, J. M., Edwards, B. S., Prossnitz, E. R., Larson, R. S., and Sklar, L. A. (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 48670-48678). Using the same molecule, we also developed a fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based assay to probe the "switchblade-like" opening of VLA-4 upon activation. Here, we investigated the effect of reducing agents on the affinity and conformational state of the VLA-4 integrin simultaneously with cell activation initiated by inside-out signaling through G protein-coupled receptors or Mn(2+) in live cells in real time. We found that reducing agents (dithiothreitol and 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid) induced multiple states of high affinity of VLA-4, where the affinity change was accompanied by an extension of the integrin molecule. Bacitracin, an inhibitor of the reductive function of the plasma membrane, diminished the effect of dithiothreitol, but had no effect on inside-out signaling. Based on this result and differences in the kinetics of integrin activation, we conclude that conformational activation of VLA-4 by inside-out signaling is independent of and additive to reduction-regulated integrin activation.