Infection or sterile inflammation triggers site-specific attraction of leukocytes. Leukocyte recruitment is a process comprising several steps orchestrated by adhesion molecules, chemokines, cytokines and endogenous regulatory molecules. Distinct adhesive interactions between endothelial cells and leukocytes and signaling mechanisms contribute to the temporal and spatial fine-tuning of the leukocyte adhesion cascade. Central players in the leukocyte adhesion cascade include the leukocyte adhesion receptors of the β2-integrin family, such as the αLβ2 and αMβ2 integrins, or of the β1-integrin family, such as the α4β1-integrin. Given the central involvement of leukocyte recruitment in different inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, the leukocyte adhesion cascade in general, and leukocyte integrins in particular, represent key therapeutic targets. In this context, the present review focuses on the role of leukocyte integrins in the leukocyte adhesion cascade. Experimental evidence that has implicated leukocyte integrins as targets in animal models of inflammatory disorders, such as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, psoriasis, inflammatory bone loss and inflammatory bowel disease as well as preclinical and clinical therapeutic applications of antibodies that target leukocyte integrins in various inflammatory disorders are presented. Finally, we review recent findings on endogenous inhibitors that modify leukocyte integrin function, which could emerge as promising therapeutic targets.
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