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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jan 18;283(3):1257-66. Epub 2007 Oct 30.

Novel roles in human MD-2 of phenylalanines 121 and 126 and tyrosine 131 in activation of Toll-like receptor 4 by endotoxin.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and The Inflammation Program, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Potent mammalian cell activation by Gram-negative bacterial endotoxin requires sequential protein-endotoxin and protein-protein interactions involving lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, CD14, MD-2, and Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). TLR4 activation requires simultaneous binding of MD-2 to endotoxin (E) and the ectodomain of TLR4. We now describe mutants of recombinant human MD-2 that bind TLR4 and react with E.CD14 but do not support cellular responsiveness to endotoxin. The mutants F121A/K122A MD-2 and Y131A/K132A MD-2 react with E.CD14 only when co-expressed with TLR4. Single mutants K122A and K132A each react with E.CD14 +/- TLR4 and promote TLR4-dependent cell activation by endotoxin suggesting that Phe(121) and Tyr(131) are needed for TLR4-independent transfer of endotoxin from CD14 to MD-2 and also needed for TLR4 activation by bound E.MD-2. The mutant F126A MD-2 reacts as well as wild-type MD-2 with E.CD14 +/- TLR4. E.MD-2(F126A) binds TLR4 with high affinity (K(d) approximately 200 pm) but does not activate TLR4 and instead acts as a potent TLR4 antagonist, inhibiting activation of HEK/TLR4 cells by wild-type E.MD-2. These findings reveal roles of Phe(121) and Tyr(131) in TLR4-independent interactions of human MD-2 with E.CD14 and, together with Phe(126), in activation of TLR4 by bound E.MD-2. These findings strongly suggest that the structural properties of E.MD-2, not E alone, determine agonist or antagonist effects on TLR4.

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