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Structure. 1995 Oct 15;3(10):1031-9.

2 A crystal structure of an extracellular fragment of human CD40 ligand.

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Biogen, Inc., Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.



The CD40 ligand (CD40L) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family of proteins and is transiently expressed on the surface of activated T cells. The binding of CD40L to CD40, which is expressed on the surface of B cells, provides a critical and unique pathway of cellular activation resulting in antibody isotype switching, regulation of apoptosis, and B cell proliferation and differentiation. Naturally occurring mutations of CD40L result in the clinical hyper-IgM syndrome, characterized by an inability to produce immunoglobulins of the IgG, IgA and IgE isotypes.


We have determined the crystal structure of a soluble extracellular fragment of human CD40L to 2 A resolution and with an R factor of 21.8%. Although the molecule forms a trimer similar to that found for other members of the TNF family, such as TNF alpha and lymphotoxin-alpha, and exhibits a similar overall fold, there are considerable differences in several loops including those predicted to be involved in CD40 binding.


The structure suggests that most of the hyper-IgM syndrome mutations affect the folding and stability of the molecule rather than the CD40-binding site directly. Despite the fact that the hyper-IgM syndrome mutations are dispersed in the primary sequence, a large fraction of them are clustered in space in the vicinity of a surface loop, close to the predicted CD40-binding site.

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