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1.  Dynamic conformational switching in the chemokine ligand is essential for G-protein-coupled receptor activation 
The Biochemical journal  2013;456(2):241-251.
Chemokines mediate diverse functions from organogenesis to mobilizing leucocytes, and are unusual agonists for class-A GPCRs (G-protein-coupled receptors) because of their large size and multi-domain structure. The current model for receptor activation, which involves interactions between chemokine N-loop and receptor N-terminal residues (Site-I) and between chemokine N-terminal and receptor extracellular loop/transmembrane residues (Site-II), fails to describe differences in ligand/receptor selectivity and the activation of multiple signalling pathways. In the present study, we show in neutrophil-activating chemokine CXCL8 that the highly conserved GP (glycine-proline) motif located distal to both N-terminal and N-loop residues couples Site-I and Site-II interactions. Mutations in the GP motif caused various differences from native-like function to complete loss of activity that could not be correlated with the specific mutation, receptor affinity or subtype, or a specific signalling pathway. NMR studies indicated that the GP motif does not influence Site-I interactions, but molecular dynamics simulations suggested that this motif dictates substates of the CXCL8 conformational ensemble. We conclude that the GP motif enables diverse receptor functions by controlling cross-talk between Site-I and Site-II, and further propose that the repertoire of chemokine functions is best described by a conformational ensemble model in which a network of long-range coupled indirect interactions mediate receptor activity.
PMCID: PMC4157346  PMID: 24032673
chemokine; conformational ensemble; G-protein-coupled receptor; long-range coupling; signalling
2.  Evolutionary Analysis of Functional Divergence among Chemokine Receptors, Decoy Receptors, and Viral Receptors 
Chemokine receptors (CKRs) function in the inflammatory response and in vertebrate homeostasis. Decoy and viral receptors are two types of CKR homologs with modified functions from those of the typical CKRs. The decoy receptors are able to bind ligands without signaling. On the other hand, the viral receptors show constitutive signaling without ligands. We examined the sites related to the functional difference. At first, the decoy and viral receptors were each classified into five groups, based on the molecular phylogenetic analysis. A multiple amino acid sequence alignment between each group and the CKRs was then constructed. The difference in the amino acid composition between the group and the CKRs was evaluated as the Kullback–Leibler (KL) information value at each alignment site. The KL information value is considered to reflect the difference in the functional constraints at the site. The sites with the top 5% of KL information values were selected and mapped on the structure of a CKR. The comparisons with decoy receptor groups revealed that the detected sites were biased on the intracellular side. In contrast, the sites detected from the comparisons with viral receptor groups were found on both the extracellular and intracellular sides. More sites were found in the ligand binding pocket in the analyses of the viral receptor groups, as compared to the decoy receptor groups. Some of the detected sites were located in the GPCR motifs. For example, the DRY motif of the decoy receptors was often degraded, although the motif of the viral receptors was basically conserved. The observations for the viral receptor groups suggested that the constraints in the pocket region are loose and that the sites on the intracellular side are different from those for the decoy receptors, which may be related to the constitutive signaling activity of the viral receptors.
PMCID: PMC3405870  PMID: 22855685
chemokine receptors; decoy receptors; viral receptors; GPCR; molecular evolution
3.  Functional Analysis of the Murine Cytomegalovirus Chemokine Receptor Homologue M33: Ablation of Constitutive Signaling Is Associated with an Attenuated Phenotype In Vivo▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(4):1884-1898.
The murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) M33 gene is conserved among all betaherpesviruses and encodes a homologue of seven-transmembrane receptors (7TMR) with the capacity for constitutive signaling. Previous studies have demonstrated that M33 is important for MCMV dissemination to or replication within the salivary glands. In this study, we probed N- and C-terminal regions of M33 as well as known 7TMR signature motifs in transmembrane (TM) II and TM III to determine the impact on cell surface expression, constitutive signaling, and in vivo phenotype. The region between amino acids R340 and A353 of the C terminus was found to be important for CREB- and NFAT-mediated signaling, although not essential for phosphatidylinositol turnover. Tagging or truncation of the N terminus of M33 resulted in loss of cell surface expression. Within TM II, an F79D mutation abolished constitutive signaling, demonstrating a role, as in other cellular and viral 7TMR, of TM II in receptor activation. In TM III, the arginine (but not the asparagine) residue of the NRY motif (the counterpart of the common DRY motif in cellular 7TMR) was found to be essential for constitutive signaling. Selected mutations incorporated into recombinant MCMV showed that disruption of constitutive signaling for a viral 7TMR homologue resulted in a reduced capacity to disseminate to or replicate in the salivary glands. In addition, HCMV UL33 was found to partially compensate for the lack of M33 in vivo, suggesting conserved biological roles of the UL33 gene family.
PMCID: PMC2258698  PMID: 18057236
4.  The Second Extracellular Loop of CXCR4 Determines Its Function as a Receptor for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(8):6475-6481.
The feline homolog of the α-chemokine receptor CXCR4 has recently been shown to support cell-cell fusion mediated by CXCR4-dependent strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and strains of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) that have been selected for growth in the Crandell feline kidney (CrFK) cell line. In this report we demonstrate that expression of CXCR4 alone is sufficient to render cells from diverse species permissive for fusion with FIV-infected cells, suggesting that CXCR4 is the sole receptor for CrFK-tropic strains of FIV, analogous to CD4-independent strains of HIV-2. To identify the regions of CXCR4 involved in fusion mediated by FIV, we screened panels of chimeric CXCR4 molecules for the ability to support fusion with FIV-infected cells. Human CXCR4 supported fusion more efficiently than feline CXCR4 and feline/human CXCR4 chimeras, suggesting that the second and third extracellular loops of human CXCR4 contain a critical determinant for receptor function. Rat/human CXCR4 chimeras suggested that the second extracellular loop contained the principal determinant for receptor function; however, chimeras constructed between human CXCR2 and CXCR4 revealed that the first and third loops of CXCR4 contribute to the FIV Env binding site, as replacement of these domains with the corresponding domains of CXCR2 rendered the molecule nonfunctional in fusion assays. Mutation of the DRY motif and the C-terminal cytoplasmic tail of CXCR4 did not affect the ability of the molecule to support fusion, suggesting that neither signalling via G proteins nor receptor internalization was required for fusion mediated by FIV; similarly, truncation of the N terminus of CXCR4 did not affect the function of the molecule as a receptor for FIV. CXCR4-transfected feline cells were rendered permissive for infection with both the CrFK-tropic PET isolate of FIV and the CXCR4-dependent RF strain of HIV-1, and susceptibility to infection correlated well with ability to support fusion. The data suggest that the second extracellular loop of CXCR4 is the major determinant of CXCR4 usage by FIV.
PMCID: PMC109811  PMID: 9658090
5.  Similarity between class A and class B G-protein-coupled receptors exemplified through calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor modelling and mutagenesis studies 
Modelling class B G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) using class A GPCR structural templates is difficult due to lack of homology. The plant GPCR, GCR1, has homology to both class A and class B GPCRs. We have used this to generate a class A–class B alignment, and by incorporating maximum lagged correlation of entropy and hydrophobicity into a consensus score, we have been able to align receptor transmembrane regions. We have applied this analysis to generate active and inactive homology models of the class B calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor, and have supported it with site-directed mutagenesis data using 122 CGRP receptor residues and 144 published mutagenesis results on other class B GPCRs. The variation of sequence variability with structure, the analysis of polarity violations, the alignment of group-conserved residues and the mutagenesis results at 27 key positions were particularly informative in distinguishing between the proposed and plausible alternative alignments. Furthermore, we have been able to associate the key molecular features of the class B GPCR signalling machinery with their class A counterparts for the first time. These include the [K/R]KLH motif in intracellular loop 1, [I/L]xxxL and KxxK at the intracellular end of TM5 and TM6, the NPXXY/VAVLY motif on TM7 and small group-conserved residues in TM1, TM2, TM3 and TM7. The equivalent of the class A DRY motif is proposed to involve Arg2.39, His2.43 and Glu3.46, which makes a polar lock with T6.37. These alignments and models provide useful tools for understanding class B GPCR function.
PMCID: PMC3565703  PMID: 23235263
calcitonin gene-related peptide; GCR1; molecular dynamics; family B G-protein-coupled receptor; family A G-protein-coupled receptor; motifs
6.  The phosphoproteome of toll-like receptor-activated macrophages 
First global and quantitative analysis of phosphorylation cascades induced by toll-like receptor (TLR) stimulation in macrophages identifies nearly 7000 phosphorylation sites and shows extensive and dynamic up-regulation and down-regulation after lipopolysaccharide (LPS).In addition to the canonical TLR-associated pathways, mining of the phosphorylation data suggests an involvement of ATM/ATR kinases in signalling and shows that the cytoskeleton is a hotspot of TLR-induced phosphorylation.Intersecting transcription factor phosphorylation with bioinformatic promoter analysis of genes induced by LPS identified several candidate transcriptional regulators that were previously not implicated in TLR-induced transcriptional control.
Toll-like receptors (TLR) are a family of pattern recognition receptors that enable innate immune cells to sense infectious danger. Recognition of microbial structures, like lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Gram-negative bacteria by TLR4, causes within hours substantial re-programming of macrophage gene expression, including up-regulation of chemokines driving inflammation, anti-microbial effector molecules and cytokines directing adaptive immune responses. TLR signalling is initiated by the adapter protein Myd88 and leads to the activation of kinase cascades that result in activation of the MAPK and NFkB pathways. Phosphorylation has an essential role in these early steps of TLR signalling, and in addition regulates critical transcription factors (TFs). Although TLR signalling has been extensively studied, a comprehensive analysis of phosphorylation events in TLR-activated macrophages is lacking. It is therefore unknown whether the canonical MAPK and NFkB pathways comprise the main phosphorylation events and which other molecular functions and processes are regulated by phosphorylation after stimulation with LPS.
Recent progress in mass spectrometry-based proteomics has opened the possibility to quantitatively investigate global changes in protein abundance and post-translational modifications. Stable isotope labelling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) allows highly accurate quantification, and has proved especially useful for direct comparison of phosphopeptide abundance in time-course or treatment analyses.
Here, we adapted SILAC to primary mouse macrophages, and performed a global, quantitative and kinetic analysis of the macrophage phosphoproteome after LPS stimulation. Bioinformatic analyses were used to identify kinases, pathways and biological processes enriched in the LPS-regulated phosphoproteome. To connect TF phosphorylation with transcription, we generated a parallel dataset of nascent RNA and used in silico promoter analysis to identify transcriptional regulators with binding site enrichment among the LPS-regulated gene set.
After establishing SILAC conditions for efficient labelling of primary bone marrow-derived macrophages in two independent experiments 1850 phosphoproteins with a total of 6956 phosphorylation sites were reproducibly identified. Phosphoproteins were detected from all cellular compartments, with a clear enrichment for nuclear and cytoskeleton-associated proteins. LPS caused major regulation of a large fraction of phosphopeptides, with 24% of all sites up-regulated and 9% down-regulated after stimulation (Figure 3A and B). These changes were highly dynamic, as the majority of the regulated phosphopeptides were up-regulated or down-regulated transiently or in a delayed manner (Figure 3C). Overall, the extent of changes in the phosphoproteome was comparable to the transcriptional re-programming, underscoring the importance of phosphorylation cascades in TLR signalling. Our parallel transcriptome data also showed that widespread phosphorylation precedes massive transcriptional changes.
To obtain footprints of kinase activation in response to TLR ligation, we searched phosphopeptide sequences for known linear sequence motifs of 33 kinases and identified kinase motifs enriched among LPS-regulated phosphorylation sites (compared to non-regulated phosphorylation sites) (Table I). Motif ERK/MAPK was highly enriched, in accordance with the essential role of the MAPK module in TLR signalling. Other kinases with motif enrichment have also recently been linked to TLR signalling (e.g. PKD; AKT and its targets GSK3 and mTOR). However, the DNA damage-actviated kinases ATM/ATR and the cell cycle-associated kinases AURORA and CHK1/2 have not been associated with the macrophage response to TLR activation yet. These finding shed new light on older data on the effect of TLR on macrophage proliferation in response to macrophage colony stimulating factor. Of interest, in follow-up experiments using pharmacological inhibitors of the kinases with motif enrichment, we observed that inhibition of ATM kinase activity caused increased LPS-induced expression of several cytokines and chemokines, suggesting that this pathway regulates inflammatory responses.
In further bioinformatic analyses, the Gene Ontology and signalling pathway annotations of phosphoproteins were used to identify signalling pathways and cellular processes targeted by TLR4-controlled phosphorylation (Table II). Among the expected hits, based on the known TLR pathways, were TLR signalling, MAPK and AKT as well as mTOR signalling. Of interest, the annotation terms ‘Rho GTPase cycle' and ‘cytoskeleton' were significantly enriched among LPS-regulated phosphoproteins, indicating a more prominent role for cytoskeletal proteins in the transduction of TLR signals or in the biological response to it.
We were especially interested in the phosphorylation of TFs and its regulation by LPS (Figure 6A). We hypothesised that functionally important TFs should have an increased frequency of binding sites in the promoters of LPS-regulated genes (Figure 6B). To identify transcriptionally regulated genes with high sensitivity, we isolated nascent RNA after metabolic labelling (Figure 6C–E). In silico promoter scanning using Genomatix software for binding sites for all 50 TF families with phosphorylated members was used to test for enrichment in transciptionally induced genes (Figure 6F). At the early time point, binding site enrichment for the canonical TLR-associated TF NFkB was detected, and in addition we found that several other TF families with an established role in the transcription of individual LPS-target genes showed binding site enrichment (CEBP, MEF2, NFAT and HEAT). In addition, enrichment for OCT and HOXC binding sites at the early time point and SORY matrices later after stimulation indicated an involvement of the phosphorylated members of the respective TF families in the execution of TLR-induced transcriptional responses. An initial test of the function for a few of these candidate transcriptional regulators was performed using siRNA knockdown in primary macrophages. These experiments suggested that knock down of the SORY binding phosphoprotein Capicua homolog (Cic) and to a lesser extent of the CREB family member Atf7 selectively attenuates LPS-induced expression of Il1a and Il1b.
In summary, this study provides a novel and global perspective on innate immune activation by TLR signalling (Figure 5). We quantitatively detected a large number of previously unknown site-specific phosphorylation events, which are now publicly available through the Phosida database. By combining different data mining approaches, we consistently identified canonical and newly implicated TLR-activated signalling modules. In particular, the PI3K/AKT and the related mTOR pathway were highlighted; furthermore, DNA damage–response associated ATM/ATR kinases and the cytoskeleton emerged as unexpected hotspots for phosphorylation. Finally, weaving together corresponding phophoproteome and nascent transcriptome datasets through the loom of in silico promoter analysis we identified TFs with a likely role in mediating TLR-induced gene expression programmes.
Recognition of microbial danger signals by toll-like receptors (TLR) causes re-programming of macrophages. To investigate kinase cascades triggered by the TLR4 ligand lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on systems level, we performed a global, quantitative and kinetic analysis of the phosphoproteome of primary macrophages using stable isotope labelling with amino acids in cell culture, phosphopeptide enrichment and high-resolution mass spectrometry. In parallel, nascent RNA was profiled to link transcription factor (TF) phosphorylation to TLR4-induced transcriptional activation. We reproducibly identified 1850 phosphoproteins with 6956 phosphorylation sites, two thirds of which were not reported earlier. LPS caused major dynamic changes in the phosphoproteome (24% up-regulation and 9% down-regulation). Functional bioinformatic analyses confirmed canonical players of the TLR pathway and highlighted other signalling modules (e.g. mTOR, ATM/ATR kinases) and the cytoskeleton as hotspots of LPS-regulated phosphorylation. Finally, weaving together phosphoproteome and nascent transcriptome data by in silico promoter analysis, we implicated several phosphorylated TFs in primary LPS-controlled gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2913394  PMID: 20531401
macrophage; nascent RNA; phosphoproteome; SILAC; toll-like receptors
7.  Human μ Opioid Receptor Models with Evaluation of the Accuracy Using the Crystal Structure of the Murine μ Opioid Receptor 
Models of the human μ opioid receptor were constructed using available G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) structures using homology (comparative) modeling techniques. The recent publication of a high-resolution crystal structure of a construct based on the murine μ opioid receptor offers a unique opportunity to evaluate the reliability of the homology models and test the relevance of introducing more templates (known structures) to increase the accuracy of the comparative models. In the first model two templates were used: the β2 adrenergic and bovine rhodopsin receptors. For the second model, four templates were utilized: the β2 adrenergic, bovine rhodopsin, β1 adrenergic, and A2A adenosine receptors. Including additional templates improved the accuracy of structural motifs and other features of the model when the same sequence alignment was used. The predicted structures were especially relevant in the case of important receptor regions such as the DRY motif, which has been associated with receptor activation. Additionally, this study showed that receptor sequence similarity is crucial in homology modeling, as indicated in the case of the highly diverse EC2 loop. This study demonstrates the reliability of the homology modeling technique in the case of the μ opioid receptor, a member of the rhodopsin-like family class of GPCRs. The addition of more templates improved the accuracy of the model. The findings regarding the modeling has significant implication to other GPCRs where the crystal structure is still unknown and suggest that homology modeling techniques can provide high quality structural models for interpreting experimental findings and formulating structurally based hypotheses regarding the activity of these important receptors.
PMCID: PMC3920553  PMID: 24527268
Human μ opioid receptor; Murine μ opioid receptor; G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); Homology modeling
8.  Structural Basis of Chemokine Sequestration by CrmD, a Poxvirus-Encoded Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002162.
Pathogens have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to evade detection and destruction by the host immune system. Large DNA viruses encode homologues of chemokines and their receptors, as well as chemokine-binding proteins (CKBPs) to modulate the chemokine network in host response. The SECRET domain (smallpox virus-encoded chemokine receptor) represents a new family of viral CKBPs that binds a subset of chemokines from different classes to inhibit their activities, either independently or fused with viral tumor necrosis factor receptors (vTNFRs). Here we present the crystal structures of the SECRET domain of vTNFR CrmD encoded by ectromelia virus and its complex with chemokine CX3CL1. The SECRET domain adopts a β-sandwich fold and utilizes its β-sheet I surface to interact with CX3CL1, representing a new chemokine-binding manner of viral CKBPs. Structure-based mutagenesis and biochemical analysis identified important basic residues in the 40s loop of CX3CL1 for the interaction. Mutation of corresponding acidic residues in the SECRET domain also affected the binding for other chemokines, indicating that the SECRET domain binds different chemokines in a similar manner. We further showed that heparin inhibited the binding of CX3CL1 by the SECRET domain and the SECRET domain inhibited RAW264.7 cell migration induced by CX3CL1. These results together shed light on the structural basis for the SECRET domain to inhibit chemokine activities by interfering with both chemokine-GAG and chemokine-receptor interactions.
Author Summary
Chemokines are a family of small proteins that help the immune system fight against invading pathogens by inducing the white blood cells to the areas of infection and inflammation. Due to the important roles of chemokines in immune response, the pathogens evolve diverse mechanisms to neutralize their activities. One example is that large DNA viruses, such as poxviruses and herpesviruses can produce chemokine binding proteins (CKBPs) to sequester chemokines during the infection. The SECRET domain represents a new family of viral CKBPs that was originally identified as a C-terminal extension of the viral tumor necrosis factor receptors (vTNFRs). We determined the three-dimensional structures of the SECRET domain and its complex with chemokine CX3CL1, revealing a new chemokine-binding manner of viral CKBPs. We also showed that other chemokines from different classes may be bound by the SECRET domain in a way similar to that observed in the SECRET/CX3CL1 complex structure. Our biochemical and chemotaxis assays also suggest that the SECRET domain is able to interfere with both chemokine-GAG and chemokine-receptor interactions, both of which are essential for chemokine activities in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3145792  PMID: 21829356
9.  A cannabinoid receptor 1 mutation proximal to the DRY motif results in constitutive activity and reveals intramolecular interactions involved in receptor activation 
Brain research  2006;1108(1):1-11.
Activation of a G-protein-coupled receptor involves changes in specific microdomain interactions within the transmembrane region of the receptor. Here, we have focused on the role of L207, proximal to the DRY motif of the human cannabinoid receptor 1 in the interconversion of the receptor resting and active states. Ligand binding analysis of the mutant receptor L207A revealed an enhanced affinity for agonists (three- to six-fold) and a diminished affinity for inverse agonists (19- to 35-fold) compared to the wild-type receptor, properties characteristic of constitutive activity. To further examine whether this mutant adopts a ligand-independent, active form, treatment with GTPγS was used to inhibit G protein coupling. Under these conditions, the L207A receptor exhibited a 10-fold increase in affinity for the inverse agonist SR141716A, consistent with a shift away from an enhanced precoupled state. Analysis of the cellular activity of the L207A receptor showed elevated basal cyclic AMP accumulation relative to the wild type that is inhibited by SR141716A, consistent with receptor-mediated Gs precoupling. Using toxins to selectively abrogate Gs or Gi coupling, we found that CP55940 nonetheless induced only a Gi response suggesting a strong preference of this ligand-bound form for Gi in this system. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal that the single residue change of L207A impacts the association of TM3 and TM6 in the receptor by altering hydrophobic interactions involving L207, the salt bridge involving the Arg of the DRY motif, and the helical structure of TM6, consistent with events leading to activation. The structural alterations parallel those observed in models of a mutant CB1 receptor T210I, with established constitutive activity (D’Antona, A.M., Ahn, K.H. and Kendall, D.A., 2006. Mutations of CB1 T210 produce active and inactive receptor forms: correlations with ligand affinity, receptor stability, and cellular localization. Biochemistry, 45, 5606–5617).
PMCID: PMC2733829  PMID: 16879811
Cannabinoid; Cannabinoid receptor; CB1; G-protein-coupled receptor; Ligand binding; Receptor activation
10.  Evidence of positive selection at codon sites localized in extracellular domains of mammalian CC motif chemokine receptor proteins 
CC chemokine receptor proteins (CCR1 through CCR10) are seven-transmembrane G-protein coupled receptors whose signaling pathways are known for their important roles coordinating immune system responses through targeted trafficking of white blood cells. In addition, some of these receptors have been identified as fusion proteins for viral pathogens: for example, HIV-1 strains utilize CCR5, CCR2 and CCR3 proteins to obtain cellular entry in humans. The extracellular domains of these receptor proteins are involved in ligand-binding specificity as well as pathogen recognition interactions.
In mammals, the majority of chemokine receptor genes are clustered together; in humans, seven of the ten genes are clustered in the 3p21-24 chromosome region. Gene conversion events, or exchange of DNA sequence between genes, have been reported in chemokine receptor paralogs in various mammalian lineages, especially between the cytogenetically closely located pairs CCR2/5 and CCR1/3. Datasets of mammalian orthologs for each gene were analyzed separately to minimize the potential confounding impact of analyzing highly similar sequences resulting from gene conversion events.
Molecular evolution approaches and the software package Phylogenetic Analyses by Maximum Likelihood (PAML) were utilized to investigate the signature of selection that has acted on the mammalian CC chemokine receptor (CCR) gene family. The results of neutral vs. adaptive evolution (positive selection) hypothesis testing using Site Models are reported. In general, positive selection is defined by a ratio of nonsynonymous/synonymous nucleotide changes (dN/dS, or ω) >1.
Of the ten mammalian CC motif chemokine receptor sequence datasets analyzed, only CCR2 and CCR3 contain amino acid codon sites that exhibit evidence of positive selection using site based hypothesis testing in PAML. Nineteen of the twenty codon sites putatively indentified as likely to be under positive selection code for amino acid residues located in extracellular domains of the receptor protein products.
These results suggest that amino acid residues present in intracellular and membrane-bound domains are more selectively constrained for functional signal transduction and homo- or heterodimerization, whereas amino acid residues in extracellular domains of these receptor proteins evolve more quickly, perhaps due to heightened selective pressure resulting from ligand-binding and pathogen interactions of extracellular domains.
PMCID: PMC2880985  PMID: 20459756
11.  Role of the intracellular domains of the human FSH receptor in GaS protein coupling and receptor expression 
Molecular and cellular endocrinology  2006;260-262:153-162.
The human (h) follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR) belongs to the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This receptor consists of 695 amino acid residues and is preferentially coupled to the Gs protein. This receptor is highly conserved among species (overall homology, 85%), with a 25 %-69 % homology drop when compared to the human LH and TSH receptors. Although studies in prototypical rhodopsin/β-adrenergic receptors suggest that multiple domains in the intracellular loops (iL) and the carboxyl-terminus (Ctail) of these receptors contribute to G protein coupling and receptor expression, there is a paucity of structure/function data on the role of these domains in FSHR function. Employing point mutations we have found that several residues present in the iL2 of the hFSHR are important for both coupling the receptor to the Gs protein and maintaining the receptor molecule in an inactive conformation. In fact, HEK-293 cells expressing several hFSHR mutants with substitutions at R450 (central to the highly conserved ERW triplet motif) and T453 (a potential target for phosphorylation) failed to mediate ligand-provoked Gs protein activation but not agonist binding, whereas substitutions at the hydrophobic L460 (a conserved residue present in all glycoprotein hormone receptors) conferred elevated basal cAMP to the transfected cells. Thus, this particular loop apparently acts as a conformational switch for allowing the receptor to adopt an active conformation upon agonist stimulation. Residues in both ends of the iL3 are important for signal transduction in a number of GPCRs, including the FSHR. We have recently explored the importance of the reversed BBXXB motif (BXXBB; where B represents a basic residue and X a non-basic residue) present in the juxtamembrane region of the hFSHR iL3. A hFSHR mutant with all basic amino acids present in the iL3 BXXBB motif replaced by alanine failed to bind agonist and activate effector, and was expressed as an immature =62 kDA form of the receptor. Individual substitutions of basic residues resulted in mutants that bound agonist normally but failed to activate effector when replaced at R552 or R556. Triple mutations in the same motif located in the NH2-end of the Ctail resulted in a complete inability of the receptor to bind agonist and activate effector, whereas individual substitutions resulted in decreased or virtually abolished agonist binding and cAMP accumulation, with both functions correlating with the detected levels of mature (80 kDa) forms of the receptor. Thus, the BXXBB motif at the iL3 of the FSHR is essential for coupling the activated receptor to the Gs protein, whereas the same motif in the Ctail is apparently more important for membrane expression. The role of cysteine residues present in the Ctail of the FSHR is an enigma since there are no conserved cysteines amongst LHR, FSHR and TSHR. C629 and C655 are conserved in the gonadotropin receptors but not in the TSHR. Alanine replacement of C627 had no effect on hFSHR expression and function, whereas the same mutation at C629 altered membrane expression and signal transduction. Serine or threonine substitutions of C655 did not modify any of the parameters analyzed. In the hFSHR, C629 may be a target for palmitoylation, and apparently it is the only cysteine residue in the Ctail domain that might play an important role in receptor function.
PMCID: PMC1782136  PMID: 17045734
Follicle-stimulating hormone receptor; Signal transduction; Receptor mutation
12.  Ligand-Dependent Conformations and Dynamics of the Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptor Determine Its Activation and Membrane-Driven Oligomerization Properties 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(4):e1002473.
From computational simulations of a serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) model complexed with pharmacologically and structurally diverse ligands we identify different conformational states and dynamics adopted by the receptor bound to the full agonist 5-HT, the partial agonist LSD, and the inverse agonist Ketanserin. The results from the unbiased all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations show that the three ligands affect differently the known GPCR activation elements including the toggle switch at W6.48, the changes in the ionic lock between E6.30 and R3.50 of the DRY motif in TM3, and the dynamics of the NPxxY motif in TM7. The computational results uncover a sequence of steps connecting these experimentally-identified elements of GPCR activation. The differences among the properties of the receptor molecule interacting with the ligands correlate with their distinct pharmacological properties. Combining these results with quantitative analysis of membrane deformation obtained with our new method (Mondal et al, Biophysical Journal 2011), we show that distinct conformational rearrangements produced by the three ligands also elicit different responses in the surrounding membrane. The differential reorganization of the receptor environment is reflected in (i)-the involvement of cholesterol in the activation of the 5-HT2AR, and (ii)-different extents and patterns of membrane deformations. These findings are discussed in the context of their likely functional consequences and a predicted mechanism of ligand-specific GPCR oligomerization.
Author Summary
The 5-HT2A receptor for the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) belongs to family A (rhodopsin-like) G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), one of the most important classes of membrane proteins that are targeted by an extensive and diverse collection of external stimuli. Recently we learned that different ligands targeting the same GPCR can elicit different biological responses, but the mechanisms remain unknown. We address this fundamental question for the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor, because it is known to respond to the binding of structurally diverse ligands by producing similar stimuli in the cell, and to the binding of quite similar ligands with dramatically different responses. Molecular dynamics simulations of molecular models of the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor in complex with pharmacologically distinct ligands show the dynamic rearrangements of the receptor molecule to be different for these ligands, and the nature and extents of the rearrangements reflect the known pharmacological properties of the ligands as full, partial or inverse activators of the receptor. The different rearrangements of the receptor molecule are shown to produce different rearrangements of the surrounding membrane, a remodeling of the environment that can have differential ligand-determined effects on receptor function and association in the cell's membrane.
PMCID: PMC3330085  PMID: 22532793
13.  A Conserved CXXC Motif in CD3ε Is Critical for T Cell Development and TCR Signaling 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(12):e1000253.
Structural integrity of the extracellular membrane-proximal stalk region of CD3ε is required for efficient signaling by the T cell antigen receptor complex. The results in this article suggest that receptor aggregation may not be sufficient for a complete T cell receptor signal and that some type of direct allosteric signal may be involved.
Virtually all T cell development and functions depend on its antigen receptor. The T cell receptor (TCR) is a multi-protein complex, comprised of a ligand binding module and a signal transmission module. The signal transmission module includes proteins from CD3 family (CD3ε, CD3δ, CD3γ) as well as the ζ chain protein. The CD3 proteins have a short extracellular stalk connecting their Ig-like domains to their transmembrane regions. These stalks contain a highly evolutionarily conserved CXXC motif, whose function is unknown. To understand the function of these two conserved cysteines, we generated mice that lacked endogenous CD3ε but expressed a transgenic CD3ε molecule in which these cysteines were mutated to serines. Our results show that the mutated CD3ε could incorporate into the TCR complex and rescue surface TCR expression in CD3ε null mice. In the CD3ε mutant mice, all stages of T cell development and activation that are TCR-dependent were impaired, but not eliminated, including activation of mature naïve T cells with the MHCII presented superantigen, staphylococcal enterotoxin B, or with a strong TCR cross-linking antibody specific for either TCR-Cβ or CD3ε. These results argue against a simple aggregation model for TCR signaling and suggest that the stalks of the CD3 proteins may be critical in transmitting part of the activation signal directly through the membrane.
Author Summary
The T cells of the immune system have surface receptors that detect unique features (called antigens) of foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria and toxins. An encounter between an antigen and the T cell receptor sets off a chain of events that activates the T cell to proliferate and thus call to action the various arms of the immune response that ultimately eliminate the invader. A set of proteins, called CD3, associates with the T cell receptor, spanning the cell membrane. Their function is to deliver a signal to the inside of T cell that its receptor has encountered antigen on the outside of the cell. Two general ideas have been proposed to explain how the CD3 proteins accomplish this: That the engagement of the T cell receptor outside the cell directly causes a change in conformation in the intracellular portion of the associated CD3 proteins that is recognized by the intracellular signaling machinery; and that engagement of the T cell receptor causes clustering of multiple receptor and CD3 proteins such that interactions among the cytoplasmic portions of the many CD3 proteins now attract other proteins to start the chain of intercellular signaling. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive. We show here that mutations in a highly conserved extracellular portion of one of the CD3 proteins can impair the transmission of the activation signal without preventing receptor clustering. These results suggest that direct transmission of a conformational change across the membrane may constitute part of the CD3-mediated activation signal.
PMCID: PMC2776832  PMID: 19956738
14.  A role of Histidine151 in the lamprey Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Receptor (lGnRHR-1) : Functional insight of diverse amino acid residues in the position of Tyr of the DRY motif in GnRHR from an ancestral Type II receptor 
The highly conserved DRY motif located at the end of the third transmembrane of G protein-coupled receptors has been described as a key motif for several aspects of GPCR functions. However, in the case of the vertebrate gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor (GnRHR), the amino acid in the third position in the DRY motif is variable. In the lamprey, a most basal vertebrate, the third amino acid of the “DRY” in GnRHR is His, while it is most often His/Gln in the type II GnRHR. To investigate the functional significance of the substitution of DRY to DRH in the lamprey(l)GnRHR, second messenger signaling, ligand binding and internalization of the wild-type and mutant lGnRH receptors were characterized with site-directed mutagenesis. Treatment of the DRE151 and DRS151 mutant receptors with lamprey GnRH-I significantly reduced inositol phosphate compared to wild-type (DRH151) and DRY151 receptors. The logIC50 of wild-type receptor (−9.554±0.049) was similar to the logIC50 of DRE151, DRS151 and DRX151 mutants, yet these same mutants were shown to significantly reduce cell surface expression. However, the DRY151 mutant compared to the wild-type receptor increased cell surface expression, suggesting that the reduction of IP production was due to the level of the cell surface expression of the mutant receptors. The rate of internalization of DRX151 (35.60%) was reduced compared to wild-type and other mutant receptors. These results suggest that His151 of the lamprey GnRH receptor may play a critical role in the retention of a certain level of cell-surface expression for subsequent cellular second messenger events.
PMCID: PMC2856804  PMID: 20005226
GnRH receptor; DRY motif; receptor expression; signaling; site-directed mutagenesis; lamprey
15.  Identification of CXCR4 Domains That Support Coreceptor and Chemokine Receptor Functions 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(4):2752-2761.
The interaction of the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) with its receptor CXCR4 is vital for cell trafficking during development, is capable of inhibiting human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) utilization of CXCR4 as a coreceptor, and has been implicated in delaying disease progression to AIDS in vivo. Because of the importance of this chemokine-chemokine receptor pair to both development and disease, we investigated the molecular basis of the interaction between CXCR4 and its ligands SDF-1 and HIV-1 envelope. Using CXCR4 chimeras and mutants, we determined that SDF-1 requires the CXCR4 amino terminus for binding and activates downstream signaling pathways by interacting with the second extracellular loop of CXCR4. SDF-1-mediated activation of CXCR4 required the Asp-Arg-Tyr motif in the second intracellular loop of CXCR4, was pertussis toxin sensitive, and did not require the distal C-terminal tail of CXCR4. Several CXCR4 mutants that were not capable of binding SDF-1 or signaling still supported HIV-1 infection, indicating that the ability of CXCR4 to function as a coreceptor is independent of its ability to signal. Direct binding studies using the X4 gp120s HXB, BH8, and MN demonstrated the ability of HIV-1 gp120 to bind directly and specifically to the chemokine receptor CXCR4 in a CD4-dependent manner, using a conformationally complex structure on CXCR4. Several CXCR4 variants that did not support binding of soluble gp120 could still function as viral coreceptors, indicating that detectable binding of monomeric gp120 is not always predictive of coreceptor function.
PMCID: PMC104032  PMID: 10074122
16.  Dopamine Receptor-Interacting Protein 78 Acts as a Molecular Chaperone for CCR5 Chemokine Receptor Signaling Complex Organization 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40522.
Chemokine receptors are members of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family. CCR5 and CXCR4 act as co-receptors for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and several efforts have been made to develop ligands to inhibit HIV infection by blocking those receptors. Removal of chemokine receptors from the cell surface using polymorphisms or other means confers some levels of immunity against HIV infection. Up to now, very limited success has been obtained using ligand therapies so we explored potential avenues to regulate chemokine receptor expression at the plasma membrane. We identified a molecular chaperone, DRiP78, that interacts with both CXCR4 and CCR5, but not the heterodimer formed by these receptors. We further characterized the effects of DRiP78 on CCR5 function. We show that the molecular chaperone inhibits CCR5 localization to the plasma membrane. We identified the interaction region on the receptor, the F(x)6LL motif, and show that upon mutation of this motif the chaperone cannot interact with the receptor. We also show that DRiP78 is involved in the assembly of CCR5 chemokine signaling complex as a homodimer, as well as with the Gαi protein. Finally, modulation of DRiP78 levels will affect receptor functions, such as cell migration in cells that endogenously express CCR5. Our results demonstrate that modulation of the functions of a chaperone can affect signal transduction at the cell surface.
PMCID: PMC3398031  PMID: 22815758
17.  Functional Analysis of Nuclear Localization Signals in VP1-2 Homologues from All Herpesvirus Subfamilies 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(10):5391-5405.
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) tegument protein VP1-2 contains an N-terminal nuclear localization signal (NLS) that is critical for capsid routing to the nuclear pore. Here we analyzed positionally conserved determinants in VP1-2 homologues from each of the alpha, beta, and gamma classes of human herpesviruses. The overall architectures of the VP1-2s were similar, with a conserved N-terminal ubiquitin-specific protease domain separated from an internal region by a linker that was quite poorly conserved in length and sequence. Within this linker region all herpesviruses contained a conserved, highly basic motif which nevertheless exhibited distinct class-specific features. The motif in HSV functioned as a monopartite NLS, while in varicella-zoster virus (VZV) activity required an adjacent basic section defining the motif as a bipartite NLS. Neither the beta- nor gammaherpesvirus VP1-2 motifs were identified by prediction algorithms, but they nevertheless functioned as efficient NLS motifs both in heterologous transfer assays and in HSV VP1-2. Furthermore, though with different efficiencies and with the exception of human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), these chimeric variants rescued the replication defect of an HSV mutant lacking its NLS motif. We demonstrate that the lysine at position 428 of HSV is critical for replication, with a single alanine substitution being sufficient to abrogate NLS function and virus growth. We conclude that the basic motifs of each of the VP1-2 proteins are likely to confer a similar function in capsid entry in the homologous setting and that while there is flexibility in the exact type of motif employed, specific individual residues are critical for function.
IMPORTANCE To successfully infect cells, all herpesviruses, along with many other viruses, e.g., HIV, hepatitis B virus, and influenza virus, must navigate through the cytoplasmic environment and dock with nuclear pores for transport of their genomes into the nucleus. However, we still have a limited understanding of the detailed mechanisms involved. Insight into these events is needed and could offer opportunities for therapeutic intervention. This work investigated the role of a specific determinant in the structural protein VP1-2 in herpesvirus entry. We examined this determinant in representative VP1-2s from all herpesvirus subfamilies, demonstrated NLS function, dissected key residues, and showed functional relevance in rescuing replication of the mutant blocked in capsid navigation to the pore. The results are important and strongly support our conclusions of the generality that these motifs are crucial for entry of all herpesviruses. They also facilitate future analysis on selective host interactions and possible routes to disrupt function.
PMCID: PMC4019078  PMID: 24574406
18.  Sharpening the edges of understanding the structure/function of the LPA1 receptor 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2008;1781(9):547-557.
Since the molecular cloning of the vzg-1/Edg-2/LPA1 gene, studies have attempted to characterize LPA1 receptor functionality into a single categorical role, different from the other Edg-family LPA receptors. The desire to categorize LPA1 function has highlighted its complexity and demonstrated that the LPA1 receptor does not have one absolute function throughout every system. The central nervous system is highly enriched in the LPA1 receptor, suggesting an integral role in neuronal processes. Metastatic and invasive breast cancer also appears to have LPA-mediated LPA1 receptor functions that enhance phenotypes associated with tumorigenesis. LPA1 possesses a number of motifs conserved among G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs): a DRY-like motif, a PDZ domain, Ser/Thr predicted sites of phosphorylation, a dileucine motif, double cysteines in the tail and conserved residues that stabilize structure and determine ligand binding. The third intracellular loop of the LPA1 receptor may be the crux of receptor signaling and attenuation with phosphorylation of Thr-236 potentially a key determinant of basal LPA1 signaling. Mutagenesis data supports the notion that Thr-236 regulates this process since mutating Thr-236 to Ala-236 increased basal and LPA-mediated serum response factor (SRF) signaling activity and Lys-236 further increased this basal signaling. Here we describe progress on defining the major functions of the LPA1 receptor, discuss a context dependent dualistic role as both a negative regulator in cancer and a proto-oncogene, outline its structural components at the molecular amino-acid level and present mutagenesis data on the third intracellular loop of the receptor.
PMCID: PMC2565514  PMID: 18501205
LPA1 receptor; LPA; AKT; mutagenesis; ovarian cancer; breast cancer; ICL3
19.  The Nef Protein of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Is a Broad-Spectrum Modulator of Chemokine Receptor Cell Surface Levels That Acts Independently of Classical Motifs for Receptor Endocytosis and Gαi Signaling  
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(8):3578-3590.
Chemokine receptors (CKRs) are important physiological mediators of immune defense, inflammatory responses, and angiogenesis, and they have also been implicated in a number of viral disease processes. Here, we report that the Nef protein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reduces cell surface levels of eight different members of the CC- and CXC-family of CKRs by up to 92%. This broad-range activity required specific elements in HIVSF2 Nef, including the proline-rich motif P73P76P79P82 as well as the acidic cluster motif E66E67E68E69, and Nef expression induced a marked perinuclear accumulation of CKRs. Surprisingly, receptor mutagenesis demonstrated that the cytoplasmic tail of CCR5 and CXCR4, which is critical for basal and ligand-mediated endocytosis, was completely dispensable for this Nef activity. In contrast, triple-mutation of the highly conserved DRY motif in the second intracellular CKR loop abolished the Nef-mediated down-regulation of CXCR4 independently of this motif’s role in CKR binding to heterotrimeric G proteins and signaling via the Gαi subunit. Thus, we identify the lentiviral pathogenicity factor Nef as a unique and broad-range modulator of CKR cell surface levels. Nef uses a mechanism that is distinct from well-established pathways orchestrating CKR metabolism and offers an interesting tool to study the multifaceted biology of CKRs.
PMCID: PMC1525246  PMID: 16775006
20.  Gα Protein Selectivity Determinant Specified by a Viral Chemokine Receptor-Conserved Region in the C Tail of the Human Herpesvirus 8 G Protein-Coupled Receptor 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(5):2460-2471.
The viral G-protein coupled receptor (vGPCR) specified by human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) open reading frame 74 (ORF74) is a ligand-independent chemokine receptor that has structural and functional homologues among other characterized gammaherpesviruses and related receptors in the betaherpesviruses. Sequence comparisons of the gammaherpesvirus vGPCRs revealed a highly conserved region in the C tail, just distal to the seventh transmembrane domain. Mutagenesis of the corresponding codons of HHV-8 ORF74 was carried out to provide C-tail-altered proteins for functional analyses. By measuring receptor-activated vascular endothelial growth factor promoter induction and NF-κB, mitogen-activated protein kinase, and Ca2+ signaling, we found that while some altered receptors showed general signaling deficiencies, others had distinguishable activation profiles, suggestive of selective Gα protein coupling. This was supported by the finding that vGPCR and representative functionally altered variants, vGPCR.8 (R322W) and vGPCR.15 (M325S), were affected differently by inhibitors of Gαi (pertussis toxin), protein kinase C (GF109203X), and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (wortmannin). Consistent with the signaling data, [35S]GTPγS incorporation assays revealed preferential coupling of vGPCR.15 to Gαq and an inability of vGPCR.8 to couple functionally to Gαq. However, both variants, wild-type vGPCR, and a C-tail deletion version of the receptor were equally able to associate physically with Gαq. Combined, our data demonstrate that HHV-8 vGPCR contains discrete sites of Gα interaction and that receptor residues in the proximal region of the cytoplasmic tail are determinants of Gα protein coupling specificity.
PMCID: PMC369212  PMID: 14963144
21.  Two Orphan Seven-Transmembrane Segment Receptors Which Are Expressed in CD4-positive Cells Support Simian Immunodeficiency Virus Infection  
Clinical isolates of primate immunodeficiency viruses, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), enter target cells by sequential binding to CD4 and the chemokine receptor CCR5, a member of the seven-transmembrane receptor family. HIV-1 variants which use additional chemokine receptors are present in the central nervous system or emerge during the course of infection. Simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) have been shown to use CCR5 as a coreceptor, but no other receptors for these viruses have been identified. Here we show that two orphan seven-transmembrane segment receptors, gpr1 and gpr15, serve as coreceptors for SIV, and are expressed in human alveolar macrophages. The more efficient of these, gpr15, is also expressed in human CD4+ T lymphocytes and activated rhesus macaque peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The gpr15 and gpr1 proteins lack several hallmarks of chemokine receptors, but share with CCR5 an amino-terminal motif rich in tyrosine residues. These results underscore the potential diversity of seven-transmembrane segment receptors used as entry cofactors by primate immunodeficiency viruses, and may contribute to an understanding of viral variation and pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2198994  PMID: 9236192
22.  Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 Diversity in Seven Genomes – Divide and Conquer 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(9):e1000933.
The var gene encoded hyper-variable Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family mediates cytoadhesion of infected erythrocytes to human endothelium. Antibodies blocking cytoadhesion are important mediators of malaria immunity acquired by endemic populations. The development of a PfEMP1 based vaccine mimicking natural acquired immunity depends on a thorough understanding of the evolved PfEMP1 diversity, balancing antigenic variation against conserved receptor binding affinities. This study redefines and reclassifies the domains of PfEMP1 from seven genomes. Analysis of domains in 399 different PfEMP1 sequences allowed identification of several novel domain classes, and a high degree of PfEMP1 domain compositional order, including conserved domain cassettes not always associated with the established group A–E division of PfEMP1. A novel iterative homology block (HB) detection method was applied, allowing identification of 628 conserved minimal PfEMP1 building blocks, describing on average 83% of a PfEMP1 sequence. Using the HBs, similarities between domain classes were determined, and Duffy binding-like (DBL) domain subclasses were found in many cases to be hybrids of major domain classes. Related to this, a recombination hotspot was uncovered between DBL subdomains S2 and S3. The VarDom server is introduced, from which information on domain classes and homology blocks can be retrieved, and new sequences can be classified. Several conserved sequence elements were found, including: (1) residues conserved in all DBL domains predicted to interact and hold together the three DBL subdomains, (2) potential integrin binding sites in DBLα domains, (3) an acylation motif conserved in group A var genes suggesting N-terminal N-myristoylation, (4) PfEMP1 inter-domain regions proposed to be elastic disordered structures, and (5) several conserved predicted phosphorylation sites. Ideally, this comprehensive categorization of PfEMP1 will provide a platform for future studies on var/PfEMP1 expression and function.
Author Summary
About one million African children die from malaria every year. The severity of malaria infections in part depends on which type of the parasitic protein PfEMP1 is expressed on the surface of the infected red blood cells. Natural immunity to malaria is mediated through antibodies to PfEMP1. Therefore hopes for a malaria vaccine based on PfEMP1 proteins have been raised. However, the large sequence variation among PfEMP1 molecules has caused great difficulties in executing and interpreting studies on PfEMP1. Here, we present an extensive sequence analysis of all currently available PfEMP1 sequences and show that PfEMP1 variation is ordered and can be categorized at different levels. In this way, PfEMP1 belong to group A–E and are composed of up to four components, each component containing specific DBL or CIDR domain subclasses, which in some cases form entire conserved domain combinations. Finally, each PfEMP1 can be described in high detail as a combination of 628 homology blocks. This dissection of PfEMP1 diversity also enables predictions of several functional sequence motifs relevant to the fold of PfEMP1 proteins and their ability to bind human receptors. We therefore believe that this description of PfEMP1 diversity is necessary and helpful for the design and interpretation of future PfEMP1 studies.
PMCID: PMC2940729  PMID: 20862303
23.  The DRY Box and C-Terminal Domain of the Human Cytomegalovirus US27 Gene Product Play a Role in Promoting Cell Growth and Survival 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113427.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a widespread pathogen that can lay dormant in healthy individuals and establish lifelong latent infection. This successful co-existence is facilitated by a number of viral gene products that manipulate host cellular functions and immune responses. Among these immunomodulatory genes are four G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) encoded by HCMV, designated US27, US28, UL33, and UL78. Studies have shown the US28 gene product to be a functional chemokine receptor that signals both constitutively and in a ligand-dependent manner, resulting in a wide range of cellular effects. In previous work, we have found that US27 expression results in at least two biological effects: enhanced CXCR4 signaling and increased in cellular proliferation in HEK293 cells. Here, we examined the involvement of two protein domains, the DRY box and the C-terminal intracellular domain (CTD) of US27, in mediating both cell proliferation and survival. While both domains were required for a proliferative effect, loss of either domain only moderately impacted cell survival, suggesting that US27 may interact with cell survival pathways through protein regions other than the DRY box and CTD. Quantitative RT-PCR arrays were used to profile changes in cellular gene expression in the HEK293-US27 cell line, and down-regulation of cell cycle regulators CDKN1A/p21/CIP1 (cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor 1A) and SESN (Sestrin2 or Hi95) was observed. These results indicate that increased cell proliferation due to US27 may be linked to suppression of negative growth regulators, and that these interactions require the DRY box and CTD.
PMCID: PMC4237426  PMID: 25409008
24.  Virus Encoded MHC-Like Decoys Diversify the Inhibitory KIR Repertoire 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(10):e1003264.
Natural killer (NK) cells are circulating lymphocytes that play an important role in the control of viral infections and tumors. Their functions are regulated by several activating and inhibitory receptors. A subset of these receptors in human NK cells are the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), which interact with the highly polymorphic MHC class I molecules. One important function of NK cells is to detect cells that have down-regulated MHC expression (missing-self). Because MHC molecules have non polymorphic regions, their expression could have been monitored with a limited set of monomorphic receptors. Surprisingly, the KIR family has a remarkable genetic diversity, the function of which remains poorly understood. The mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) is able to evade NK cell responses by coding “decoy” molecules that mimic MHC class I. This interaction was suggested to have driven the evolution of novel NK cell receptors. Inspired by the MCMV system, we develop an agent-based model of a host population infected with viruses that are able to evolve MHC down-regulation and decoy molecules. Our simulations show that specific recognition of MHC class I molecules by inhibitory KIRs provides excellent protection against viruses evolving decoys, and that the diversity of inhibitory KIRs will subsequently evolve as a result of the required discrimination between host MHC molecules and decoy molecules.
Author Summary
Human natural killer (NK) cells patrol peripheral tissue, monitoring changes on the surface of body cells. They express a network of activating and inhibitory receptors called the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs). The main ligands of inhibitory KIRs are MHC class I molecules, which present viral peptides to other immune cells. Several herpes viruses interfere with MHC expression, and when a virus down-regulates MHC class I, NK cells loose an inhibitory signal, become activated and kill the infected cell. The KIR family has a large genetic diversity. However, for the recognition of “missing” MHC molecules this diversity seems redundant as one set of receptors should be sufficient. To study why the KIR system has evolved such a high complexity, we developed an in-silico model, simulating the evolution of populations infected with a herpes-like virus. Next to down regulating MHC-I molecules, these viruses are able to escape the NK cell response by expressing MHC-decoys engaging the inhibitory KIRs. We show that specific KIR-MHC interactions protect against viruses expressing decoys. Because of the provided protection, specific inhibitory KIRs have an evolutionary advantage, giving rise to a high level of diversity. We propose that herpes-like viruses evolving decoys affect in the evolution of KIRs.
PMCID: PMC3794908  PMID: 24130473
25.  Structure of the HCMV UL16-MICB Complex Elucidates Select Binding of a Viral Immunoevasin to Diverse NKG2D Ligands 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(1):e1000723.
The activating immunoreceptor NKG2D promotes elimination of infected or malignant cells by cytotoxic lymphocytes through engagement of stress-induced MHC class I-related ligands. The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-encoded immunoevasin UL16 subverts NKG2D-mediated immune responses by retaining a select group of diverse NKG2D ligands inside the cell. We report here the crystal structure of UL16 in complex with the NKG2D ligand MICB at 1.8 Å resolution, revealing the molecular basis for the promiscuous, but highly selective, binding of UL16 to unrelated NKG2D ligands. The immunoglobulin-like UL16 protein utilizes a three-stranded β-sheet to engage the α-helical surface of the MHC class I-like MICB platform domain. Intriguingly, residues at the center of this β-sheet mimic a central binding motif employed by the structurally unrelated C-type lectin-like NKG2D to facilitate engagement of diverse NKG2D ligands. Using surface plasmon resonance, we find that UL16 binds MICB, ULBP1, and ULBP2 with similar affinities that lie in the nanomolar range (12–66 nM). The ability of UL16 to bind its ligands depends critically on the presence of a glutamine (MICB) or closely related glutamate (ULBP1 and ULBP2) at position 169. An arginine residue at this position however, as found for example in MICA or ULBP3, would cause steric clashes with UL16 residues. The inability of UL16 to bind MICA and ULBP3 can therefore be attributed to single substitutions at key NKG2D ligand locations. This indicates that selective pressure exerted by viral immunoevasins such as UL16 contributed to the diversification of NKG2D ligands.
Author Summary
Cytotoxic lymphocytes such as natural killer (NK) cells or CD8 T cells have the ability to detect and destroy cells infected by viruses. They therefore are tools on which the human immune system critically depends in order to control viral infections. To avoid discovery by cytotoxic lymphocytes and to allow for longtime persistence in the human host, the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has developed a multitude of immune evasive strategies that are mediated by so-called immunoevasins. We present here a structure-function analysis of one of the best-known HCMV immunevasins, UL16, and its interaction with a cellular ligand for NK cells, MICB. The normal function of MICB is to activate NK cells by engaging the most well-known NK receptor, NKG2D. Our results provide molecular evidence for the strategy used by UL16 to disable NK cell activation. In a rare example of structural mimicry that has likely arisen through convergent evolution, UL16 mimics a central binding motif of the structurally unrelated NKG2D protein. This allows UL16 to engage and disable several diverse NKG2D ligands, while others have apparently evolved to escape recognition by UL16 through alteration of key residues at strategic locations.
PMCID: PMC2797645  PMID: 20090832

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