Very Late Antigen-4 (VLA-4, α4β1-integrin, ITGA4) orchestrates cell-cell and cell-endothelium adhesion. Given the proposed role of VLA-4 in sickle cell disease (SCD) pathophysiology, we evaluated the ability of the VLA-4 blocking antibody natalizumab to inhibit SCD blood cell adhesion. Natalizumab recognized surface VLA-4 on leucocytes and reticulocytes in whole blood from SCD subjects. SCD reticulocytes were positive for VLA-4, while VLA-4 staining of non-SCD reticulocytes was undetectable. Titrations with natalizumab revealed the presence of saturable levels of VLA-4 on both SCD reticulocytes and leucocytes similar to healthy subject leucocytes. Under physiological flow conditions, the adhesion of SCD whole blood cells and isolated SCD leucocytes to immobilized vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) was blocked by natalizumab in a dose-dependent manner, which correlated with cell surface receptor binding. Natalizumab also inhibited >50% of whole blood cell binding to TNF-α activated human umbilical vein endothelial cell monolayers under physiological flow at clinically relevant concentrations (10 to 100 μg/ml). This indicates that VLA-4 is the dominant receptor that drives SCD reticulocyte and mononuclear cell adhesion to VCAM-1 and that the VLA-4 adhesion to VCAM-1 is a significant contributor to SCD blood cell adhesion to endothelium. Thus, VLA-4 blockade may be beneficial in sickle cell disease.
- sickle cell
- very late antigen-4