Background: Integrin activation in response to inside-out signaling serves as the basis for rapid leukocyte arrest on endothelium, migration, and mobilization of immune cells. Integrin-dependent adhesion is controlled by the conformational state of the molecule, which is regulated by seven-transmembrane Guanine nucleotide binding Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs). α4β1-integrin (CD49d/CD29, Very Late Antigen-4, VLA-4) is expressed on leukocytes, hematopoietic progenitors, stem cells, hematopoietic cancer cells, and others. VLA-4 conformation is rapidly up-regulated by inside-out signaling through Gαi-coupled GPCRs and down-regulated by Gαs-coupled GPCRs. However, other signaling pathways, which include nitric oxide-dependent signaling, have been implicated in the regulation of cell adhesion. The goal of the current report was to study the effect of nitric oxide/cGMP signaling pathway on VLA-4 conformational regulation.
Results: Using fluorescent ligand binding to evaluate the integrin activation state on live cells in real-time, we show that several small molecules, which specifically modulate nitric oxide/cGMP signaling pathway, as well as a cell permeable cGMP analog, can rapidly down-modulate binding of a VLA-4 specific ligand on cells pre-activated through three Gαi-coupled receptors: wild type CXCR4, CXCR2 (IL-8RB), and a non-desensitizing mutant of formyl peptide receptor (FPR ΔST). Upon signaling, we detected rapid changes in the ligand dissociation rate. The dissociation rate after inside-out integrin de-activation was similar to the rate for resting cells. In a VLA-4/VCAM-1-specific myeloid cell adhesion system, inhibition of the VLA-4 affinity change by nitric oxide had a statistically significant effect on real-time cell aggregation.
Conclusions: We conclude that nitric oxide/cGMP signaling pathway can rapidly down-modulate the affinity state of the VLA-4 binding pocket, especially under the condition of sustained Gαi-coupled GPCR signaling, generated by a non-desensitizing receptor mutant. This suggests a fundamental role of this pathway in de-activation of integrin-dependent cell adhesion.