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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 8;105(14):5465-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0711350105. Epub 2008 Mar 31.

Human glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor ligand regulates its signaling activity through multiple oligomerization states.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Ligation between glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor (GITR) and its ligand (GITRL) provides an undefined signal that renders CD4(+)CD25(-) effector T cells resistant to the inhibitory effects of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells. To understand the structural basis of GITRL function, we have expressed and purified the extracellular domain of human GITR ligand in Escherichia coli. Chromotography and cross-linking studies indicate that human GITRL (hGITRL) exists as dimers and trimers in solution and also can form a supercluster. To gain insight into the nature of GITRL oligomerization, we determined the crystallographic structures of hGITRL, which revealed a loosely associated open trimer with a deep cavity at the molecular center and a flexible C-terminal tail bent for trimerization. Moreover, a tetramer of trimers (i.e., supercluster) has also been observed in the crystal, consistent with the cross-linking analysis. Deletion of the C-terminal distal three residues disrupts the loosely assembled trimer and favors the formation of a dimer that has compromised receptor binding and signaling activity. Collectively, our studies identify multiple oligomeric species of hGITRL that possess distinct kinetics of ERK activation. The studies address the functional implications and structural models for a process by which hGITRL utilizes multiple oligomerization states to regulate GITR-mediated signaling during T cell costimulation.

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