The interaction between integrin lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) and its ligand intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) is critical in immunological and inflammatory reactions but, like other adhesive interactions, is of low affinity. Here, multiple rational design methods were used to engineer ICAM-1 mutants with enhanced affinity for LFA-1. Five amino acid substitutions 1) enhance the hydrophobicity and packing of residues surrounding Glu-34 of ICAM-1, which coordinates to a Mg2+ in the LFA-1 I domain, and 2) alter associations at the edges of the binding interface. The affinity of the most improved ICAM-1 mutant for intermediate- and high-affinity LFA-1 I domains was increased by 19-fold and 22-fold, respectively, relative to wild type. Moreover, potency was similarly enhanced for inhibition of LFA-1-dependent ligand binding and cell adhesion. Thus, rational design can be used to engineer novel adhesion molecules with high monomeric affinity; furthermore, the ICAM-1 mutant holds promise for targeting LFA-1-ICAM-1 interaction for biological studies and therapeutic purposes.
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