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Highly Accessed Open Badges Protein family review

The integrins

Yoshikazu Takada1*, Xiaojing Ye1 and Scott Simon2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Dermatology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Second Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of California, East Health Sciences Drive, Davis, CA 95616, USA

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Genome Biology 2007, 8:215  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-5-215

Published: 1 June 2007


The integrins are a superfamily of cell adhesion receptors that bind to extracellular matrix ligands, cell-surface ligands, and soluble ligands. They are transmembrane αβ heterodimers and at least 18 α and eight β subunits are known in humans, generating 24 heterodimers. Members of this family have been found in mammals, chicken and zebrafish, as well as lower eukaryotes, including sponges, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (two α and one β subunits, generating two integrins) and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster (five α and one β, generating five integrins). The α and β subunits have distinct domain structures, with extracellular domains from each subunit contributing to the ligand-binding site of the heterodimer. The sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) was identified as a general integrin-binding motif, but individual integrins are also specific for particular protein ligands. Immunologically important integrin ligands are the intercellular adhesion molecules (ICAMs), immunoglobulin superfamily members present on inflamed endothelium and antigen-presenting cells. On ligand binding, integrins transduce signals into the cell interior; they can also receive intracellular signals that regulate their ligand-binding affinity. Here we provide a brief overview that concentrates mostly on the organization, structure and function of mammalian integrins, which have been more extensively studied than integrins in other organisms.