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J Exp Med. 2004 Feb 16;199(4):503-14.

N-linked glycosylation is required for optimal function of Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus-encoded, but not cellular, interleukin 6.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus interleukin-6 (vIL-6) is a structural and functional homologue of the human cytokine IL-6 (hIL-6). hIL-6 and vIL-6 exhibit similar biological functions and both act via the gp130 receptor subunit to activate the Janus tyrosine kinase (JAK)1 and signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)1/3 pathway. Here we show that vIL-6 is N-linked glycosylated at N78 and N89 and demonstrate that N-linked glycosylation at site N89 of vIL-6 markedly enhances binding to gp130, signaling through the JAK1-STAT1/3 pathway and functions in a cytokine-dependent cell proliferation bioassay. Although hIL-6 is also N-glycosylated at N73 and multiply O-glycosylated, neither N-linked nor O-linked glycosylation is necessary for IL-6 receptor alpha-dependent binding to gp130 or signaling through JAK1-STAT1/3. As distinct from vIL-6, unglycosylated hIL-6 is as potent as glycosylated hIL-6 in stimulating B cell proliferation. These findings highlight distinct functional roles of N-linked glycosylation in viral and cellular IL-6.

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