pp125FAK (focal adhesion kinase) a protein tyrosine kinase that may mediate cellular responses to adhesion, is activated and tyrosine-phosphorylated when platelets adhere to fibrinogen via the integrin, alpha IIb beta 3. To determine whether either of the cytoplasmic tails of alpha IIb beta 3 regulates FAK phosphorylation, CHO cells were stably transfected with alpha IIb beta 3 or various cytoplasmic tail truncation mutants. Cells expressing wild-type alpha IIb beta 3 or alpha IIb beta 3 that lacked the COOH-terminal 13 or 18 residues of the 20 residue alpha IIb tail adhered to and spread on fibrinogen or on an anti-alpha IIb antibody, and FAK became tyrosine-phosphorylated. FAK also became phosphorylated in adherent cells lacking the COOH-terminal 35 or 39 residues of the 47 residue beta 3 tail, although the extent of phosphorylation was reduced by about 50% in the latter mutant. Little or no FAK phosphorylation was observed if 46 residues were deleted from the beta 3 tail. None of these beta 3 truncation mutants spread on the anti-alpha IIb antibody. When cells with wild-type alpha IIb beta 3 or truncated beta 3 were detached from a surface, FAK became rapidly dephosphorylated. In contrast, FAK remained phosphorylated in the two alpha IIb truncation mutants for up to 90 minutes in suspension. This persistent phosphorylation was not due to occupancy of alpha IIb beta 3 by adhesive ligands because it was also observed with an alpha IIb tail truncation mutant that contained an additional mutation in the extracellular portion of the receptor that prevents ligand binding. These studies demonstrate that: (1) the beta 3 cytoplasmic tail, including the membrane-proximal portion, is involved in initiation of FAK phosphorylation; (2) FAK phosphorylation can be initiated by cell adhesion in the absence of cell spreading; and (3) the membrane-distal portion of the alpha IIb cytoplasmic tail may normally function to dampen FAK phosphorylation in non-anchored cells.

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