Cell-cell interactions that result from membrane proteins binding weakly in trans can cause accumulations in cis that suggest cooperativity and thereby an acute sensitivity to environmental factors. The ubiquitous 'marker of self' protein CD47 binds weakly to SIRPα on macrophages, which leads to accumulation of SIRPα (also known as SHPS-1, CD172A and SIRPA) at phagocytic synapses and ultimately to inhibition of engulfment of 'self' cells - including cancer cells. We reconstituted this macrophage checkpoint with GFP-tagged CD47 on giant vesicles generated from plasma membranes and then imaged vesicles adhering to SIRPα immobilized on a surface. CD47 diffusion is impeded near the surface, and the binding-unbinding events reveal cooperative interactions as a concentration-dependent two-dimensional affinity. Membrane fluctuations out-of-plane link cooperativity to membrane flexibility with suppressed fluctuations in the vicinity of bound complexes. Slight acidity (pH 6) stiffens membranes, diminishes cooperative interactions and also reduces 'self' signaling of cancer cells in phagocytosis. Sensitivity of cell-cell interactions to microenvironmental factors - such as the acidity of tumors and other diseased or inflamed sites - can thus arise from the collective cooperative properties of flexible membranes.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Keywords: Adhesion; Cooperative binding; Elasticity; GPMV; Vesicles.
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