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J Mol Biol. 2007 Feb 16;366(2):525-39. Epub 2006 Nov 18.

Differential receptor subunit affinities of type I interferons govern differential signal activation.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Type I interferons (IFNs) elicit antiviral, antiproliferative and immunmodulatory responses by binding to a shared cell surface receptor comprising the transmembrane proteins ifnar1 and ifnar2. Activation of differential response patterns by IFNs has been observed, suggesting that members of the family play different roles in innate immunity. The molecular basis for differential signaling has not been identified yet. Here, we have investigated the recognition of various IFNs including several human IFNalpha species, human IFNomega and human IFNbeta as well as ovine IFNtau2 by the receptor subunits in detail. Binding to the extracellular domains of ifnar1 (ifnar1-EC) and ifnar2 (ifnar2-EC) was monitored in real time by reflectance interference and total internal reflection fluorescence spectroscopy. For all IFNs investigated, competitive 1:1 interaction not only with ifnar2-EC but also with ifnar1-EC was shown. Furthermore, ternary complex formation was studied with ifnar1-EC and ifnar2-EC tethered onto solid-supported membranes. These analyses confirmed that the signaling complexes recruited by IFNs have very similar architectures. However, differences in rate and affinity constants over several orders of magnitude were observed for both the interactions with ifnar1-EC and ifnar2-EC. These data were correlated with the potencies of ISGF3 activation, antiviral and anti-proliferative activity on 2fTGH cells. The ISGF3 formation and antiviral activity correlated very well with the binding affinity towards ifnar2. In contrast, the affinity towards ifnar1 played a key role for antiproliferative activity. A striking correlation was observed for relative binding affinities towards ifnar1 and ifnar2 with the differential antiproliferative potency. This correlation was confirmed by systematically engineering IFNalpha2 mutants with very high differential antiproliferative potency.

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