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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jul 2;279(27):28475-82. Epub 2004 Apr 24.

Structural model of MD-2 and functional role of its basic amino acid clusters involved in cellular lipopolysaccharide recognition.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology, and Hygiene, Technical University of Munich, 81675 Munich, Germany.


The receptor complex resulting from association of MD-2 and the ectodomain of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) mediates lipopolysaccharide (LPS) signal transduction across the cell membrane. We prepared a tertiary structure model of MD-2, based on the known structures of homologous lipid-binding proteins. Analysis of circular dichroic spectra of purified bacterially expressed MD-2 indicates high content of beta-type secondary structure, in agreement with the structural model. Bacterially expressed MD-2 was able to confer LPS responsiveness to cells expressing TLR4 despite lacking glycosylation. We identified several clusters of basic residues on the surface of MD-2. Mutation of each of two clusters encompassing the residues Lys(89)-Arg(90)-Lys(91) and Lys(125)-Lys(125) significantly decreased the signal transduction of the respective MD-2 mutants either upon co-expression with TLR4 or upon addition as soluble protein into the supernatant of cells overexpressing TLR4. These basic clusters lie at the edge of the beta-sheet sandwich, which in cholesterol-binding protein connected to Niemann-Pick disease C2 (NPC2), dust mite allergen Der p2, and ganglioside GM2-activator protein form a hydrophobic pocket. In contrast, mutation of another basic cluster composed of Arg(69)-Lys(72), which according to the model lies further apart from the hydrophobic pocket only weakly decreased MD-2 activity. Furthermore, addition of the peptide, comprising the surface loop between Cys(95) and Cys(105), predicted by model, particularly in oxidized form, decreased LPS-induced production of tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-8 upon application to monocytic cells and fibroblasts, respectively, supporting its involvement in LPS signaling. Our structural model of MD-2 is corroborated by biochemical analysis and contributes to the unraveling of molecular interactions in LPS recognition.

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