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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 18;283(29):20560-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800457200. Epub 2008 May 12.

DR4-selective tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) variants obtained by structure-based design.

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Centre for Genomic Regulation, CRG-EMBL Systems Biology Unit, Barcelona, Spain.


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a potential anticancer agent that selectively induces apoptosis in a variety of cancer cells by interacting with death receptors DR4 and DR5. TRAIL can also bind to decoy receptors (DcR1, DcR2, and osteoprotegerin receptor) that cannot induce apoptosis. Different tumor types respond either to DR4 or to DR5 activation, and chemotherapeutic drugs can increase the expression of DR4 or DR5 in cancer cells. Thus, DR4 or DR5 receptor-specific TRAIL variants would permit new and tumor-selective therapies. Previous success in generating a DR5-selective TRAIL mutant using computer-assisted protein design prompted us to make a DR4-selective TRAIL variant. Technically, the design of DR4 receptor-selective TRAIL variants is considerably more challenging compared with DR5 receptor-selective variants, because of the lack of a crystal structure of the TRAIL-DR4 complex. A single amino acid substitution of Asp at residue position 218 of TRAIL to His or Tyr was predicted to have a favorable effect on DR4 binding specificity. Surface plasmon resonance-based receptor binding tests showed a lowered DR5 affinity in concert with increased DR4 specificity for the designed variants, D218H and D218Y. Binding to DcR1, DcR2, and osteoprotegerin was also decreased. Cell line assays confirmed that the variants could not induce apoptosis in DR5-responsive Jurkat and A2780 cells but were able to induce apoptosis in DR4-responsive EM-2 and ML-1 cells.

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