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J Biol Chem. 2009 Oct 23;284(43):29269-82. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.039115. Epub 2009 Aug 18.

Complex N-linked glycans on Asn-89 of Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus-encoded interleukin-6 mediate optimal function by affecting cytokine protein conformation.

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


Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-encoded interleukin-6 (vIL-6) and its human cellular homologue (huIL-6) share similar biological functions. Our previous work showed that N-linked glycosylation was required for optimal function of vIL6 but not huIL-6 (1). Here we describe heterogeneity in the composition of the glycans of the two N-linked sites of vIL-6. The Asn-89 site of vIL-6, found to be required for optimal cytokine function, is composed of complex glycans. The Asn-78 site is composed of high mannose glycans, which are dispensable for cytokine function. N-Linked glycosylation at the Asn-89 site was required for intracellular production of functional vIL-6, but endoglycosidase-mediated removal of N-linked glycans from secreted vIL-6 did not impair protein function. With the use of a conformation-specific antibody and tryptic digestion assays, we showed that glycosylation at the Asn-89 site of vIL-6 affected protein conformation. Human IL-6, but not vIL-6, requires IL-6Ralpha for binding to gp130. We tested the hypothesis that the Asn-89 complex glycan of vIL-6 alone was sufficient to confer binding to gp130 independently of IL-6Ralpha. Two mutants of huIL-6, made to contain additional complex N-linked glycans in the region that interacts with IL-6Ralpha, did not confer binding to gp130 independently of IL-6Ralpha. Our findings support the conclusion that complex glycans on Asn-89 of vIL-6 specifically promote a protein conformation that allows the viral cytokine to bind gp130 independently of IL-6Ralpha.

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