Low-molecular-mass Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD)-containing polypeptides were isolated from the venom of Trimeresurus elegans by a simple two-step procedure consisting of membrane filtration and reverse-phase HPLC. A combination of electrospray MS, fast-atom bombardment MS and Edman degradation allowed us to ascertain the presence in the venom of different isoforms and to determine their primary structures. The amino acid sequences resembled the structure of elegantin, the only disintegrin previously reported from the T. elegans venom [Williams, Rucinski, Holt and Niewiarowski (1990) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1039, 81–89]. MS analyses indicated the occurrence of differential proteolytic processing at both the N-terminus and the C-terminus of the polypeptide chains. The amino acid sequence alignment of the elegantin isoforms with known components of the disintegrin family demonstrated the complete conservation of the 12 cysteine residues involved in disulphide bridges. Molecular modelling of elegantins predicted an overall folding of these molecules quite similar to that reported for the kistrin solution structure. The newly identified polypeptide isoforms strongly inhibited ADP-induced aggregation in both human and canine platelet-rich plasma but showed a different species-dependent specificity. These molecules were also able to inhibit B16-BL6 murine melanoma cell adhesion to immobilized fibronectin. The comparison of the structures and biological activities of elegantin isoforms and kistrin allowed us to highlight some structural features that, in addition to the RGD locus, might be involved in the interaction of these snake-venom polypeptides with the integrin receptors on the platelet and cell surface.

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