Several recent studies have demonstrated that the amino acid residues flanking the RGD sequence of high-affinity ligands modulate their specificity of interaction with integrin complexes. The present study has addressed the role of the residues flanking the RGD sequence in regulating the recognition by disintegrin of the αIIbβ3 and α5β1 complexes by construction of a panel of recombinant molecules of Elegantin (the platelet aggregation inhibitor from the venom of Trimerasurus elegans) expressing specific RGD sequence motifs. Wild-type Elegantin (ARGDNP) and several variants including Eleg. AM (ARGDMP), Eleg. PM (PRGDMP) and Eleg. PN (PRGDNP) were expressed as glutathione S-transferase (GST) fusion proteins in Escherichia coli. The inhibitory efficacies of the panel of Elegantin variants were analysed in platelet adhesion assays with substrates immobilized with fibrinogen and fibronectin. Elegantin molecules containing an Ala residue N-terminal to the RGD sequence (wild-type Elegantin and Eleg. AM) showed strong inhibitory activity towards αIIbβ3-dependent platelet adhesion on fibronectin, whereas a Pro residue in this position (Eleg. PM and Kistrin, the inhibitor from the venom of Calloselasma rhodostoma) engendered lower activity. The decreased activity could not be attributed to a decrease in the affinity of the disintegrin for the αIIbβ3 complex because both Eleg. AM and Eleg. PM had similar Kd (app) values. In contrast, Elegantin molecules into which a Met residue was introduced in place of the Asn residue C-terminal to the RGD sequence showed 10–13-fold elevated inhibitory activity towards platelet adhesion on fibrinogen and this was maintained with either a Pro or Ala residue N-terminal to the RGD sequence. In experiments with the α5β1 complex on K562 cells, the inhibitory efficacies of the panel of Elegantin molecules were analysed under two different cation conditions. First, in the presence of Ca2+/Mg2+, K562 cell adhesion on fibronectin was inhibited equally well by Elegantin and Eleg. AM but inhibited poorly by Eleg. PM and Kistrin. In contrast with platelets, the decreased inhibitory efficacy of the PRGDMP disintegrins was due to poor recognition of the α5β1 complex. In the presence of Mn2+ cation, K562 cell adhesion on fibrinogen was observed in an α5β1-dependent manner. Under these conditions both PRGD and ARGD containing disintegrins were strong inhibitors of K562 cell adhesion on fibrinogen and this was due to a markedly improved recognition of the α5β1 complex by the PRGD molecules. These observations demonstrate the pivotal role of the amino acids flanking the RGD sequence for disintegrin recognition of integrin complexes and highlight the subtle nature by which integrin-ligand binding specificity can be modulated by both cation and adhesive motif.

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