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Lacy, Michael; Kontos, Christos; Brandhofer, Markus; Hille, Kathleen; Groening, Sabine; Sinitski, Dzmitry; Bourilhon, Priscila; Rosenberg, Eric; Krammer, Christine; Thavayogarajah, Tharshika; Pantouris, Georgios; Bakou, Maria; Weber, Christian; Lolis, Elias; Bernhagen, Jürgen; Kapurniotu, Aphrodite (2018): Identification of an Arg-Leu-Arg tripeptide that contributes to the binding interface between the cytokine MIF and the chemokine receptor CXCR4. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, 5171
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Abstract

MIF is a chemokine-like cytokine that plays a role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and cardiovascular disorders. It binds to the chemokine-receptors CXCR2/CXCR4 to trigger atherogenic leukocyte migration albeit lacking canonical chemokine structures. We recently characterized an N-like-loop and the Pro-2-residue of MIF as critical molecular determinants of the CXCR4/MIF binding-site and identified allosteric agonism as a mechanism that distinguishes CXCR4-binding to MIF from that to the cognate ligand CXCL12. By using peptide spot-array technology, site-directed mutagenesis, structure-activity-relationships, and molecular docking, we identified the Arg-Leu-Arg (RLR) sequence-region 87-89 that-in three-dimensional space-'extends' the N-like-loop to control site-1-binding to CXCR4. Contrary to wildtype MIF, mutant R87A-L88A-R89A-MIF fails to bind to the N-terminal of CXCR4 and the contribution of RLR to the MIF/CXCR4-interaction is underpinned by an ablation of MIF/CXCR4-specific signaling and reduction in CXCR4-dependent chemotactic leukocyte migration of the RLR-mutant of MIF. Alanine-scanning, functional competition by RLR-containing peptides, and molecular docking indicate that the RLR residues directly participate in contacts between MIF and CXCR4 and highlight the importance of charge-interactions at this interface. Identification of the RLR region adds important structural information to the MIF/CXCR4 binding-site that distinguishes this interface from CXCR4/CXCL12 and will help to design MIF-specific drug-targeting approaches.