Integrins: alternative splicing as a mechanism to regulate ligand binding and integrin signaling events

Bioessays. 1999 Jun;21(6):499-509. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199906)21:6<499::AID-BIES6>3.0.CO;2-D.


Integrins are a family of transmembrane proteins composed of heterodimers of alpha and beta subunits. With their extracellular domain they bind extracellular matrix proteins or other cell surface molecules, and their cytoplasmic domain binds to cytoskeletal and signaling proteins. Thus, they are in an ideal position to transfer information from the extracellular environment to the interior of the cell and vice versa. For several integrin subunits, alternative splicing of mRNA leads to variations in the sequence of both extracellular and cytoplasmic domains. Many integrin splice variants have specific expression patterns, but for some time, functional differences between these variants were not evident. Recent experiments using transfected cell lines and gene targeting of specific splice variants have contributed significantly to our understanding of the function of these splice variants. The results indicate that alternative splicing is a mechanism to subtly regulate the ligand binding and signaling activity of integrins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cytoplasm
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Integrins / genetics*
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Integrins / physiology
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Integrins
  • Ligands