Release of cytokines, growth factors and other life-essential molecules from precursors by a-disintegrin-and-metalloproteases (ADAMs) is regulated with high substrate-specificity. We hypothesized that this is achieved by cleavage-regulatory intracellular-domain (ICD)-modifications of the precursors. We show here that cleavage-stimuli-induced specific ICD-modifications cause structural substrate changes that enhance ectodomain sensitivity of neuregulin-1 (NRG1; epidermal-growth-factor) or CD44 (receptor-tyrosine-kinase (RTK) co-receptor) to chymotrypsin/trypsin or soluble ADAM. This inside-out signal transfer required substrate homodimerization and was prevented by cleavage-inhibitory ICD-mutations. In chimeras, regulation could be conferred to a foreign ectodomain, suggesting a common higher-order structure. We predict that substrate-specific protease-accessibility-regulation controls release of numerous ADAM substrates.