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Integrin-RGD binding under force

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Biological cells must be capable of attaching themselves to their surroundings. For this purpose they utilize fibrillar proteins, such as fibronectins, that grasp cells through cell surface receptors integrins. The latter act as snap fasteners to the extra-cellular fibrils. The growth, movement, and survival of cells are all dependent on the ability of integrins to fasten cells upon intra-cellular signals or to signal inwards that something has become fastened on the cell surface. The major fastener on integrins are simple divalent ions like Mg++ or Ca++ that can adhere to specific molecules with amazing strength, even though the interaction at the cell surface is exposed to water. Computer simulations using NAMD, reported recently, revealed a dynamic picture of the interactions used by cells to link themselves to the extra-cellular matrix. They showed that it is actually a brave water molecule that is recruited by integrins as a protective shield for the interaction. The simulations provide for the first time a detailed view of how cell tissues are stabilized through surface ions against mechanical stress.