The integrin alpha IIb beta 3 is the most abundant integrin on platelets. Upon platelet activation, the integrin changes its conformation (inside-out signalling) and outside-in signalling takes place leading to platelet spreading, platelet aggregation and thrombus formation. Bloodsucking parasites such as mosquitoes, leeches and ticks express anticoagulant and antiplatelet proteins, which represent major sources of lead compounds for the development of useful therapeutic agents for the treatment of haemostatic disorders or cardiovascular diseases. In addition to hematophagous parasites, snakes also possess anticoagulant and antiplatelet proteins in their salivary glands. Two snake venom proteins have been developed into two antiplatelet drugs that are currently used in the clinic. The group of proteins discussed in this review are disintegrins, low molecular weight integrin-binding cysteine-rich proteins, found in snakes, ticks, leeches, worms and horseflies. Finally, we highlight various oral antagonists, which have been tested in clinical trials but were discontinued due to an increase in mortality. No new alpha IIb beta 3 inhibitors are developed since the approval of current platelet antagonists, and structure-function analysis of exogenous disintegrins could help find platelet antagonists with fewer adverse side effects.
- integrin α
- hematophagous parasites