Such diverse biological processes as the maintenance of tissue architecture and the regulation of cell migration are controlled through dynamic changes in integrin receptor conformation. Early analyses of the mechanisms of shape change by integrins led to the definition of three inter-convertible conformational states: inactive, primed and ligand-occupied. Recent advances reviewed in this article have now shown that the integrin molecule contains a number of flexible joints and connections, leading to a broad spectrum of possible conformational states. This conformational complexity is likely to permit fine-tuning of integrin function through regulation of ligand-binding affinity and intracellular signalling.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.