Towards understanding the messengers of extracellular space: Computational models of outside-in integrin reaction networks

Karagöz, Zeynep, Rijns, Laura, Dankers, Patricia Y.W., van Griensven, Martijn & Carlier, Aurélie

Published: January 2021


The interactions between cells and their extracellular matrix (ECM) are critically important for homeostatic control of cell growth, proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Transmembrane integrin molecules facilitate the communication between ECM and the cell. Since the characterization of integrins in the late 1980s, there has been great advancement in understanding the function of integrins at different subcellular levels. However, the versatility in molecular pathways integrins are involved in, the high diversity in their interaction partners both outside and inside the cell as well as on the cell membrane and the short lifetime of events happening at the cell–ECM interface make it difficult to elucidate all the details regarding integrin function experimentally. To overcome the experimental challenges and advance the understanding of integrin biology, computational modeling tools have been used extensively. In this review, we summarize the computational models of integrin signaling while we explain the function of integrins at three main subcellular levels (outside the cell, cell membrane, cytosol). We also discuss how these computational modeling efforts can be helpful in other disciplines such as biomaterial design. As such, this review is a didactic modeling summary for biomaterial researchers interested in complementing their experimental work with computational tools or for seasoned computational scientists that would like to advance current in silico integrin models.

Full Access Link: Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal