LD motifs (leucine–aspartic acid motifs) are short helical protein–protein interaction motifs that have emerged as key players in connecting cell adhesion with cell motility and survival. LD motifs are required for embryogenesis, wound healing and the evolution of multicellularity. LD motifs also play roles in disease, such as in cancer metastasis or viral infection. First described in the paxillin family of scaffolding proteins, LD motifs and similar acidic LXXLL interaction motifs have been discovered in several other proteins, whereas 16 proteins have been reported to contain LDBDs (LD motif-binding domains). Collectively, structural and functional analyses have revealed a surprising multivalency in LD motif interactions and a wide diversity in LDBD architectures. In the present review, we summarize the molecular basis for function, regulation and selectivity of LD motif interactions that has emerged from more than a decade of research. This overview highlights the intricate multi-level regulation and the inherently noisy and heterogeneous nature of signalling through short protein–protein interaction motifs.

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