Pathophysiologic role of α4 integrins in the lung

Roy R. Lobb, William M. Abraham, Linda C. Burkly, Alan Gill, Weining Ma, James A. Knight, Diane R. Leone, Giovanna Antognetti, R. Blake Pepinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Evidence for a central role for the integrins α4β1 and α4β7 in leukocyte pathophysiology is rapidly accumulating. Five distinct α4 mAbs, each able to block α4-dependent adhesion in vitro, show beneficial effects in vivo in six different species, and in a wide variety of organ systems, including colon, lung, skin, neural tissue, pancreas, peritoneum, and the vessel wall. In particular, a clear role for these integrins in lung pathophysiology is implied on the basis of in vivo studies in four different species. Although several issues remain to be resolved, including the relative importance of α4β1 and α4β7, and the relative roles of their counterligands, VCAM1, fibronectin, and MAdCAM, the data argue that α4 integrins will likely be critical to both the normal physiology and pathology of the lung in man. To this end, we (Adams, Lin, Lobb, and Gill, unpublished data) and others have generated peptidomimetic small molecule antagonists of VLA4 based on the connecting segment 1 (CS1) peptide sequence of fibronectin that cue potent blockers of integrin adhesive function in vitro and show efficacy in vivo. We have found that our inhibitors are excellent blockers of both murine contact hypersensitivity, and of the LPR and AHR in the sheep allergic airways model (Abraham, Lobb, Adams, and Gill, unpublished data), and are therefore possible candidates for clinical intervention in human asthma. The use of the VCAM-Ig fusion protein as a probe for high-affinity α4 integrins has further enhanced our understanding of α4 integrin function in the lung. While integrin upregulation in vitro has been observed many times, and high affinity (as opposed to avidity) of integrins seen in vitro in several systems, in vivo proof of integrin upregulation to a high-affinity state has been difficult to obtain in the absence of selective probes. Our data provide key information in this regard and strongly argue not only that integrin upregulation does indeed occur in vivo, but also that it is in fact obligatory for the leukocyte pathologies we have examined to date. Further studies are clearly warranted to further examine mechanisms of action, and to confirm and extend these studies, both with the α4 integrins and with other integrin families. In summary, our studies of α4 integrins continue to provide novel insights into the pathophysiology of integrin function and into future directions for drug discovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-123
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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