The function of some multidomain proteins is regulated by interdomain communication. We use second-site suppressor cysteine mutations to test a hypothesis on how the inserted (I)-like domain in the integrin beta-subunit regulates ligand binding by the neighboring I domain in the integrin alpha-subunit [Huth, J. R., Olejniczak, E. T., Mendoza, R., Liang, H., Harris, E. A., et al. (2000) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97, 5231-5236; and Alonso, J. L., Essafi, M., Xiong, J. P., Stehle, T. & Arnaout, M. A. (2002) Curr. Biol. 12, R340-R342]. The hypothesis is that an interaction between the beta I-like metal ion-dependent adhesion site (MIDAS) and an intrinsic ligand in the linker following the alpha I domain, Glu-310, exerts a pull that activates the alpha I domain. Individual mutation of alpha(L) linker residue Glu-310 or beta(2) MIDAS residues Ala-210 or Tyr-115 to cysteine abolishes I domain activation, whereas the double mutation of alpha(L)-E310C with either beta(2)-A210C or beta(2)-Y115C forms a disulfide bond that constitutively activates ligand binding. The disulfide-bonded mutant is resistant to small molecule antagonists that bind to the beta I-like domain near its interface with the alpha I domain and inhibit communication between these domains but remains susceptible to small molecule antagonists that bind underneath the I domain alpha 7-helix and certain allosteric antagonistic antibodies. Thus, the alpha 7-helix and its linker are better modeled as a pull spring than a bell rope. The results suggest that alpha(L) residue Glu-310, which is universally conserved in all I domain-containing integrins, functions as an intrinsic ligand for the beta I-like domain, and that when integrins are activated, the beta I-like MIDAS binds to Glu-310, pulls the spring, and thereby activates the alpha I domain.