Molecular dynamics simulations of forced unbending of integrin αVβ3

Wei Chen, Jizhong Lou, Jen Hsin, Klaus Schulten, Stephen C. Harvey, Cheng Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Integrins may undergo large conformational changes during activation, but the dynamic processes and pathways remain poorly understood. We used molecular dynamics to simulate forced unbending of a complete integrin αVβ3 ectodomain in both unliganded and liganded forms. Pulling the head of the integrin readily induced changes in the integrin from a bent to an extended conformation. Pulling at a cyclic RGD ligand bound to the integrin head also extended the integrin, suggesting that force can activate integrins. Interactions at the interfaces between the hybrid and β tail domains and between the hybrid and epidermal growth factor 4 domains formed the major energy barrier along the unbending pathway, which could be overcome spontaneously in ~1 μs to yield a partially-extended conformation that tended to rebend. By comparison, a fully-extended conformation was stable. A newly-formed coordination between the αV Asp457 and the α-genu metal ion might contribute to the stability of the fully-extended conformation. These results reveal the dynamic processes and pathways of integrin conformational changes with atomic details and provide new insights into the structural mechanisms of integrin activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1001086
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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