Protein Structure and Folding
- Type I natural killer T (NKT) cells are a population of innate like T lymphocytes that rapidly respond to α-GalCer presented by CD1d via the production of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. While developing novel α-GalCer analogs that were meant to be utilized as potential adjuvants because of their production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Th1 skewers), we generated α-galactosylsphingamides (αGSA). Surprisingly, αGSAs are not potent antigens in vivo despite their strong T-cell receptor (TCR)–binding affinities.
- Agonistic antibodies are powerful tools to dimerize receptors in the absence of ligand binding, but high-fidelity receptor activation requires that these antibodies accurately recapitulate the native dimeric state. Spangler et al. employ a clever approach to select for antibodies that bind a specific IL-4Rα/γc heterodimeric complex in its native signaling conformation, leading to a monovalent “stapler,” a single-chain variable fragment (scFv) that binds at the dimerization interface. This powerful approach can be further exploited for a variety of homo- or heterodimeric receptors to achieve signaling, especially in the absence of endogenous ligand.
- Natural killer T (NKT) cells are a subset of T lymphocytes that recognize glycolipid antigens presented by the CD1d molecule (CD1d). They rapidly respond to antigen challenge and can activate both innate and adaptive immune cells. To study the role of antigen presentation in NKT cell activation, previous studies have developed several anti-CD1d antibodies that block CD1d binding to T-cell receptors (TCRs). Antibodies that are specific to both CD1d and the presented antigen can only be used to study the function of only a limited number of antigens.
- Human (h)4-1BB (TNFRSF9 or CD137) is an inducible tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily member that interacts with its cognate ligand h4-1BBL to promote T lymphocyte activation and proliferation. h4-1BB is currently being targeted with agonists in cancer immunotherapy. Here, we determined the crystal structures of unbound h4-1BBL and both WT h4-1BB and a dimerization-deficient h4-1BB mutant (C121S) in complex with h4-1BBL at resolutions between 2.7 and 3.2 Å. We observed that the structural arrangement of 4-1BBL, both unbound and in the complex, represents the canonical bell shape as seen in other similar TNF proteins and differs from the previously reported three-bladed propeller structure of 4-1BBL.
- 4-1BB (CD137) is a TNF receptor superfamily (TNFRSF) member that is thought to undergo receptor trimerization upon binding to its trimeric TNF superfamily ligand (4-1BBL) to stimulate immune responses. 4-1BB also can bind to the tandem repeat–type lectin galectin-9 (Gal-9), and signaling through mouse (m)4-1BB is reduced in galectin-9 (Gal-9)–deficient mice, suggesting a pivotal role of Gal-9 in m4-1BB activation. Here, using sulfur-SAD phasing, we determined the crystal structure of m4-1BB to 2.2-Å resolution.
- Vaccinia virus (VACV) envelope protein D8 is one of three glycosaminoglycan adhesion molecules and binds to the linear polysaccharide chondroitin sulfate (CS). D8 is also a target for neutralizing antibody responses that are elicited by the smallpox vaccine, which has enabled the first eradication of a human viral pathogen and is a useful model for studying antibody responses. However, to date, VACV epitopes targeted by human antibodies have not been characterized at atomic resolution. Here, we characterized the binding properties of several human anti-D8 antibodies and determined the crystal structures of three VACV-mAb variants, VACV-66, VACV-138, and VACV-304, separately bound to D8.
- Peptide antigen presentation by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I proteins initiates CD8+ T cell-mediated immunity against pathogens and cancers. MHC I molecules typically bind peptides with 9 amino acids in length with both ends tucked inside the major A and F binding pockets. It has been known for a while that longer peptides can also bind by either bulging out of the groove in the middle of the peptide or by binding in a zigzag fashion inside the groove. In a recent study, we identified an alternative binding conformation of naturally occurring peptides from Toxoplasma gondii bound by HLA-A*02:01.
- Mouse CD1d is a nonclassical MHC molecule able to present lipids and glycolipids to a specialized subset of T cells known as natural killer T cells. The antigens presented by CD1d have been shown to cover a broad range of chemical structures and to follow precise rules determining the potency of the antigen in the context of T cell activation. Together with lipids, initial reports suggested that CD1d can also bind and present hydrophobic peptides with (F/W)XX(I/L/M)XXW. However, the exact location of peptide binding and the molecular basis for the required motif are currently unknown.
- The ability of different glycosphingolipids (GSLs) to activate type I natural killer T cells (NKT cells) has been known for 2 decades. The possible therapeutic use of these GSLs has been studied in many ways; however, studies are needed in which the efficacy of promising GSLs is compared under identical conditions. Here, we compare five unique GSLs structurally derived from α-galactosylceramide. We employed biophysical and biological assays, as well as x-ray crystallography to study the impact of the chemical modifications of the antigen on type I NKT cell activation.