A monoclonal antibody, CSAT, which inhibits the adhesion of chick cells to substrata coated with fibronectin, laminin and vitronectin, has been used to identify a cell surface receptor required for cell–substratum adhesion. This receptor, termed integrin, is found on the ventral surface of cells in close contact adhesion sites, at the periphery of adhesion plaques and beneath stress fibres. It is a heterodimer consisting of non-covalently linked alpha and beta subunits. Integrin binds directly to laminin, fibronectin and vitronectin with dissociation constants in the micromolar range. The binding of integrin to matrix molecules is sensitive to peptides carrying the cell-binding sequence Arg-Gly-Asp and requires heteromeric integrity. Integrin also binds directly to the cytoskeleton-associated protein talin. Thus, integrin has the properties of a transmembrane molecule capable of bringing extracellular matrix and cytoskeleton-associated molecules in proper juxtaposition to form adhesion structures. The integrin beta subunit is phosphorylated following Rous sarcoma virus transformation. Phosphorylation alters the ability of the receptor to bind extracellular matrix molecules as well as talin, suggesting a mechanism for the alteration of cellular adhesive and morphological properties following malignant transformation. A major phosphorylation site is on the cytoplasmic domain of the beta subunit. Synthetic peptides homologous with this region of integrin inhibit integrin–talin binding. The gene for the beta subunit of integrin has been sequenced. Its structure is consistent with the membrane-spanning properties of the receptor. Integrin is structurally and serologically related to adhesion receptors from mammalian tumour cells, fibroblasts, platelets and lymphocytes. It appears to be a member of a supergene family of receptors involved in cellular adhesive interactions. Antibody and peptide inhibition experiments have suggested a role for integrin and integrin-like molecules in cell migration, neurite extension, neural differentiation, histogenesis and embryonic development in Drosophila. Thus, integrin appears representative of a set of evolutionarily conserved, biologically important adhesive molecules.

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