Human fibrillin-1 is the major structural protein of extracellular matrix 10–12 nm microfibrils. It has a disulfide-rich modular organization which consists primarily of cbEGF (Ca2+-binding epidermal growth factor-like) domains and TB (transforming growth factor β-binding protein-like) domains. TB4 contains an RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) integrin-binding motif. The atomic structure of this region has been solved by X-ray crystallography and shows the TB4 and flanking cbEGF domains to be arranged as a tetragonal pyramid with N- and C-termini exposed at opposite ends of the fragment. The RGD integrin-binding motif is located within a flexible loop. We have used a variety of biophysical, biochemical and cell biology methods to investigate the molecular properties of integrin–fibrillin-1 interactions and have demonstrated that recombinant fibrillin-1 domain fragments mediate binding to integrins αVβ3, α5β1 and αVβ6. Integrin αVβ3 is a high-affinity fibrillin-1 receptor (Kd ∼40 nM), whereas integrins αVβ6 and α5β1 show moderate-affinity (Kd ∼450 nM) and low-affinity (Kd >1 μM) binding respectively. Different patterns of α5β1 distribution are seen when human keratinocytes and fibroblasts are plated on to fibrillin domain fragments compared with those seen for fibronectin, suggesting that fibrillin may cause a lesser degree or different type of intracellular signalling. A number of disease-causing mutations which affect the TB4 domain have been identified. These are being investigated for their effects on integrin binding and/or changes in intramolecular structure.

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