Platelet plasma membrane glycoproteins IIb (GPIIb) and IIIa (GPIIIa) form a Ca(2+)-dependent heterodimer. GPIIb/IIIa, which serves as the receptor for fibrinogen and other adhesive proteins at the surface of activated platelets. Using equilibrium dialysis measurements, it was established that both GPIIb and GPIIIa in solution have low-affinity Ca(2-)-binding sites (Kd0.2-0.3 mM), five in GPIIb and two in GPIIIa, and it was confirmed that only the alpha-chain of GPIIb (GPIIb alpha) binds Ca2+. Furthermore, Ca2+ binding was found with two CNBr fragments of GPIIb, GPIIb alpha-(1-285) and GPIIb alpha-(314-489), which carry three out of the four putative Ca(2+)-binding sites. GPIIb/IIIa in solution has a single high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding site (Kd1 80 +/- 30 nM at 21 degrees C), whose degree of saturation regulates the state of association of GPIIb and GPIIIa in the GPIIb/IIIa heterodimer at room temperature, and 3-4 medium-affinity Ca(2+)-binding sites (Kd2 40 +/- 15 microM at 21 degrees C). When GPIIb/IIIa was incorporated into liposomes, Kd1 decreased by an order of magnitude (9 +/- 3 nM at 21 degrees C) and reached the dissociation constant estimated for the high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding sites at the platelet surface [Brass & Shattil (1982) J. Biol. Chem. 257, 1400-1405], whereas Kd2 remained unchanged. The high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding site of GPIIb/IIIa in solution at 4 degrees C has almost the same affinity (Kd1 65 +/- 20 nM) as at 21 degrees C; however, at 37 degrees C, either its affinity decreases enough so as to become experimentally indistinguishable from the medium-affinity Ca(2+)-binding sites determined at this temperature (number of binding sites 3.9 +/- 1.2 mol of Ca2+/mol of GP, Kd 25 +/- 11 microM), or vanishes altogether. Studies on Ca(2+)-dependent dissociation of GPIIIb/IIIa at 37 degrees C in solution seem to support the former interpretation. Further work will be necessary to decide whether the dissociation of GPIIb/IIIa in the platelet membrane at 37 degrees C is regulated by the degree of saturation of the high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding site, as occurs in solution. It is suggested that the high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding site could be related to the putative GPIIIa-binding region in GPIIb (residues 558-747 of the alpha chain).

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