Dithiothreitol (DTT) activation of the adhesive function of several different integrins suggests the existence of a common DTT-sensitive integrin regulatory element. Ui11/E3, a natural killer (NK) cell- resistant murine target cell line genetically engineered to constitutively express human intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1; CD54) was used in a flow cytometric experimental model to evaluate DTT effects on the NK cell integrin adhesion molecule, leukocyte function antigen-1 (LFA-1; alpha L beta 2, CD11a/CD18). DTT and several structurally related dithiol compounds elicited a dramatic elevation in conjugate formation that was dependent on target cell ICAM-1 expression, was blocked by LFA-1 alpha L or beta 2 chain-specific antibodies, and occurred in the absence of Ui11/E3 target cell exposure to DTT or quantitative changes in NK cell membrane LFA-1 expression. This avidity modulation of LFA-1 by DTT required actin polymerization, was abrogated by the protein kinase C inhibitor calphostin C, involved activities of calyculin A- and okadaic acid-sensitive serine/threonine protein phosphatases PP-1 and/or PP-2A but not geldanamycin-sensitive tyrosine kinases, and differed with respect to kinetics and enzyme inhibitor sensitivity from LFA-1 activation promoted by cross-linking of NK cell CD16 or phorbol ester treatment. A key structural feature of DTT was the presence of two thiol groups, both reduced but not physically adjacent as in the nonstimulatory dithiol, 2,3- dimercaptopropanol. LFA-1 activation was not because of DTT chelation of Ca2+ or Zn2+. Immunoblotting studies identified multiple NK cell plasma membrane-associated proteins to be reduced by DTT under LFA-1- activating conditions, but similar effects were also promoted by reducing agent treatments that failed to alter adhesive function. Direct chemical modification of LFA-1 seemed an unlikely basis of activation because (1) DTT activated LFA-1 in HSB2 T cells without detectable disulfide reduction in LFA-1 alpha L or beta 2 chains immunoprecipitated from these cells and (2) DTT treatment of NK cells did not hinder binding of KIM127 and KIM185, monoclonal antibodies that recognize epitopes in the potentially DTT-susceptible cysteine-rich domain of the beta 2 chain. Thus, these results extended the range of DTT-activatible integrins to include NK cell LFA-1 and characterized for the first time signaling-associated enzymatic activities involved in DTT activation of NK cell LFA-1. Moreover, they suggested that structural features of DTT, particularly SH group spatial positioning, are important in LFA-activation for reasons other than cation chelation or disulfide reduction.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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