Structure and dynamics of the integrin LFA-1 I-domain in the inactive state underlie its inside-out/outside-in signaling and allosteric mechanisms.


Lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) is an integrin that transmits information in two directions across the plasma membrane of leukocytes, in so-called outside-in and inside-out signaling mechanisms. To investigate the structural basis of these mechanisms, we studied the conformational space of the apo I-domain using replica-averaged metadynamics simulations in combination with nuclear magnetic resonance chemical shifts. We thus obtained a free energy landscape that reveals the existence of three conformational substates of this domain. The three substates include conformations similar to existing crystallographic structures of the low-affinity I-domain, the inactive I-domain with an allosteric antagonist inhibitor bound underneath α helix 7, and an intermediate affinity state of the I-domain. The multiple substates were validated with residual dipolar coupling measurements. These results suggest that the presence of three substates in the apo I-domain enables the precise regulation of the binding process that is essential for the physiological function of LFA-1.