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The traditional view of integrins portrays these highly conserved cell surface receptors as mediators of cellular attachment to the extracellular matrix (ECM), and to a lesser degree, as coordinators of leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium. These canonical activities are indispensable; however, there is also a wide variety of integrin functions mediated by non-ECM ligands that transcend the traditional roles of integrins. Some of these unorthodox roles involve cell-cell interactions and are engaged to support immune functions such as leukocyte transmigration, recognition of opsonization factors, and stimulation of neutrophil extracellular traps. Other cell-cell interactions mediated by integrins include hematopoietic stem cell and tumor cell homing to target tissues. Integrins also serve as cell-surface receptors for various growth factors, hormones, and small molecules. Interestingly, integrins have also been exploited by a wide variety of organisms including viruses and bacteria to support infectious activities such as cellular adhesion and/or cellular internalization. Additionally, the disruption of integrin function through the use of soluble integrin ligands is a common strategy adopted by several parasites in order to inhibit blood clotting during hematophagy, or by venomous snakes to kill prey. In this review, we strive to go beyond the matrix and summarize non-ECM ligands that interact with integrins in order to highlight these non-traditional functions of integrins.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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