The VLA-4 (CD49d/CD29) integrin is the only member of the VLA family expressed by resting lymphoid cells that has been involved in cell-cell adhesive interactions. We here describe the triggering of homotypic cell aggregation of peripheral blood T lymphocytes and myelomonocytic cells by mAbs specific for certain epitopes of the human VLA alpha 4 subunit. This anti-VLA-4-induced cell adhesion is isotype and Fc independent. Similar to phorbol ester-induced homotypic adhesion, cell aggregation triggered through VLA-4 requires the presence of divalent cations, integrity of cytoskeleton and active metabolism. However, both adhesion phenomena differed at their kinetics and temperature requirements. Moreover, cell adhesion triggered through VLA-4 cannot be inhibited by cell preincubation with anti-LFA-1 alpha (CD11a), LFA-1 beta (CD18), or ICAM-1 (CD54) mAb as opposed to that mediated by phorbol esters, indicating that it is a LFA-1/ICAM-1 independent process. Antibodies specific for CD2 or LFA-3 (CD58) did not affect the VLA-4-mediated cell adhesion. The ability to inhibit this aggregation by other anti-VLA-4-specific antibodies recognizing epitopes on either the VLA alpha 4 (CD49d) or beta (CD29) chains suggests that VLA-4 is directly involved in the adhesion process. Furthermore, the simultaneous binding of a pair of aggregation-inducing mAbs specific for distinct antigenic sites on the alpha 4 chain resulted in the abrogation of cell aggregation. These results indicate that VLA-4-mediated aggregation may constitute a novel leukocyte adhesion pathway.

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