A structural model for force regulated integrin binding to fibronectin's RGD-synergy site

Matrix Biol. 2002 Mar;21(2):139-47. doi: 10.1016/s0945-053x(01)00197-4.


The synergy site on fibronectin's FN-III(9) module, located approximately 32 A away from the RGD-loop on FN-III(10), greatly enhances integrin alpha(5)beta(1) mediated cell binding. Since fibronectin is exposed to mechanical forces acting on the extracellular matrix in vivo, we used steered molecular dynamics to study how mechanical stretching of FN-III(9-10) affects the relative distance between these two synergistic sites. Our simulations predict the existence of an intermediate state prior to unfolding. In this state, the synergy-RGD distance is increased from 32 A to approximately 55 A, while the conformations of both sites remain unperturbed. This distance is too large for both sites to co-bind the same receptor, as indicated by experiments that confirm that increasing the length of the linker chain between FN-III(9) and FN-III(10) reduces alpha(5)beta(1) binding. Our simulations thus suggest that increased alpha(5)beta(1)-binding attributed to the synergy site, along with the associated downstream cell-signaling events, can be turned off mechanically by stretching FN-III(9-10) into this intermediate state. The potential physiological implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Fibronectins / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Fibronectin / chemistry*


  • Fibronectins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Receptors, Fibronectin
  • arginyl-glycyl-aspartic acid