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J Immunol. 2006 Jun 15;176(12):7456-61.

IL-4 receptor alpha is an important modulator of IL-4 and IL-13 receptor binding: implications for the development of therapeutic targets.

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  • 1The Brooke Laboratories, Division of Infection, Inflammation, and Repair, Southampton General Hospital, UK.


IL-4 is a key cytokine associated with allergy and asthma. Induction of cell signaling by IL-4 involves interaction with its cognate receptors, a complex of IL-4Ralpha with either the common gamma-chain or the IL-13R chain alpha1 (IL-13Ralpha1). We found that IL-4 bound to the extracellular domain of IL-4Ralpha (soluble human (sh)IL-4Ralpha) with high affinity and specificity. In contrast with the sequential mechanism of binding and stabilization afforded by IL-4Ralpha to the binding of IL-13 to IL-13Ralpha1, neither common gamma-chain nor IL-13Ralpha1 contributed significantly to the stabilization of the IL-4:IL-4Ralpha complex. Based on the different mechanisms of binding and stabilization of the IL-4R and IL-13R complexes, we compared the effects of shIL-4Ralpha and an IL-4 double mutein (R121D/Y124D, IL-4R antagonist) on IL-4- and IL-13-mediated responses. Whereas IL-4R antagonist blocked responses to both cytokines, shIL-4Ralpha only blocked IL-4. However, shIL-4Ralpha stabilized and augmented IL-13-mediated STAT6 activation and eotaxin production by primary human bronchial fibroblasts at suboptimal doses of IL-13. These data demonstrate that IL-4Ralpha plays a key role in the binding affinity of both IL-13R and IL-4R complexes. Under certain conditions, shIL-4Ralpha has the potential to stabilize binding IL-13 to its receptor to augment IL-13-mediated responses. Thus, complete understanding of the binding interactions between IL-4 and IL-13 and their cognate receptors may facilitate development of novel treatments for asthma that selectively target these cytokines without unpredicted or detrimental side effects.

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