skip to main content

Title: Structural basis for ligand modulation of the CCR2 conformational landscape

CC chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2) is a part of the chemokine receptor family, an important class of therapeutic targets. These class A G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in mammalian signaling pathways and control cell migration toward endogenous CC chemokine ligands, named for the adjacent cysteine motif on their N terminus. Chemokine receptors and their associated ligands are involved in a wide range of diseases and thus have become important drug targets. CCR2, in particular, promotes the metastasis of cancer cells and is also implicated in autoimmunity-driven type-1 diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, multiple sclerosis, asthma, atherosclerosis, neuropathic pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Although promising, CCR2 antagonists have been largely unsuccessful to date. Here, we investigate the effect of an orthosteric and an allosteric antagonist on CCR2 dynamics by coupling long-timescale molecular dynamics simulations with Markov-state model theory. We find that the antagonists shift CCR2 into several stable inactive conformations that are distinct from the crystal structure conformation and disrupt a continuous internal water and sodium ion pathway, preventing transitions to an active-like state. Several metastable conformations present a cryptic drug-binding pocket near the allosteric site that may be amenable to targeting with small molecules. Without antagonists, the apo dynamics reveal intermediate conformations more » along the activation pathway that provide insight into the basal dynamics of CCR2 and may also be useful for future drug design.

« less
; ;
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. 201814131
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Chemokines play critical roles in numerous physiologic and pathologic processes through their action on seven-transmembrane (TM) receptors. The N-terminal domain of chemokines, which is a key determinant of signaling via its binding within a pocket formed by receptors’ TM helices, can be the target of proteolytic processing. An illustrative case of this regulatory mechanism is the natural processing of CXCL12 that generates chemokine variants lacking the first two N-terminal residues. Whereas such truncated variants behave as antagonists of CXCR4, the canonical G protein-coupled receptor of CXCL12, they are agonists of the atypical chemokine receptor 3 (ACKR3/CXCR7), suggesting the implication of different structural determinants in the complexes formed between CXCL12 and its two receptors. Recent analyses have suggested that the CXCL12 N-terminus first engages the TM helices of ACKR3 followed by the receptor N-terminus wrapping around the chemokine core. Here we investigated the first stage of ACKR3-CXCL12 interactions by comparing the activity of substituted or N-terminally truncated variants of CXCL12 toward CXCR4 and ACKR3. We showed that modification of the first two N-terminal residues of the chemokine (K1R or P2G) does not alter the ability of CXCL12 to activate ACKR3. Our results also identified the K1R variant as a Gmore »protein-biased agonist of CXCR4. Comparative molecular dynamics simulations of the complexes formed by ACKR3 either with CXCL12 or with the P2G variant identified interactions between the N-terminal 2–4 residues of CXCL12 and a pocket formed by receptor's TM helices 2, 6, and 7 as critical determinants for ACKR3 activation.

    « less
  2. The lack of biologically relevant protein structures can hinder rational design of small molecules to target G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). While ensemble docking using multiple models of the protein target is a promising technique for structure-based drug discovery, model clustering and selection still need further investigations to achieve both high accuracy and efficiency. In this work, we have developed an original ensemble docking approach, which identifies the most relevant conformations based on the essential dynamics of the protein pocket. This approach is applied to the study of small-molecule antagonists for the PAC1 receptor, a class B GPCR and a regulator of stress. As few as four representative PAC1 models are selected from simulations of a homology model and then used to screen three million compounds from the ZINC database and 23 experimentally validated compounds for PAC1 targeting. Our essential dynamics ensemble docking (EDED) approach can effectively reduce the number of false negatives in virtual screening and improve the accuracy to seek potent compounds. Given the cost and difficulties to determine membrane protein structures for all the relevant states, our methodology can be useful for future discovery of small molecules to target more other GPCRs, either with or without experimental structures.
  3. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest class of cell-surface receptor proteins with important functions in signal transduction and often serve as therapeutic drug targets. With the rapidly growing public data on three dimensional (3D) structures of GPCRs and GPCR-ligand interactions, computational prediction of GPCR ligand binding becomes a convincing option to high throughput screening and other experimental approaches during the beginning phases of ligand discovery. In this work, we set out to computationally uncover and understand the binding of a single ligand to GPCRs from several different families. Three-dimensional structural comparisons of the GPCRs that bind to the same ligand revealed local 3D structural similarities and often these regions overlap with locations of binding pockets. These pockets were found to be similar (based on backbone geometry and side-chain orientation using APoc), and they correlate positively with electrostatic properties of the pockets. Moreover, the more similar the pockets, the more likely a ligand binding to the pockets will interact with similar residues, have similar conformations, and produce similar binding affinities across the pockets. These findings can be exploited to improve protein function inference, drug repurposing and drug toxicity prediction, and accelerate the development of new drugs.
  4. The PDZ family has drawn attention as possible drug targets because of the domains’ wide ranges of function and highly conserved binding pockets. The PICK1 PDZ domain has been proposed as a possible drug target because the interactions between the PICK1 PDZ domain and the GluA2 subunit of the AMPA receptor have been shown to progress neurodegenerative diseases. BIO124 has been identified as a sub µM inhibitor of the PICK1–GluA2 interaction. Here, we use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to reveal the atomic-level interaction pattern between the PICK1 PDZ domain and BIO124. Our simulations reveal three unique binding conformations of BIO124 in the PICK1 PDZ binding pocket, referred to here as state 0, state 1, and state 2. Each conformation is defined by a unique hydrogen bonding network and a unique pattern of hydrophobic interactions between BIO124 and the PICK1 PDZ domain. Interestingly, each conformation of BIO124 results in different dynamic changes to the PICK1 PDZ domain. Unlike states 1 and 2, state 0 induces dynamic coupling between BIO124 and the αA helix. Notably, this dynamic coupling with the αA helix is similar to what has been observed in other PDZ–ligand complexes. Our analysis indicates that the interactions formed between BIO124more »and I35 may be the key to inducing dynamic coupling with the αA helix. Lastly, we suspect that the conformational shifts observed in our simulations may affect the stability and thus the overall effectiveness of BIO124. We propose that a physically larger inhibitor may be necessary to ensure sufficient interactions that permit stable binding between a drug and the PICK1 PDZ domain.« less
  5. Abstract Background

    Emerging RNA viruses that target the central nervous system (CNS) lead to cognitive sequelae in survivors. Studies in humans and mice infected with West Nile virus (WNV), a re-emerging RNA virus associated with learning and memory deficits, revealed microglial-mediated synapse elimination within the hippocampus. Moreover, CNS-resident memory T (TRM) cells activate microglia, limiting synapse recovery and inducing spatial learning defects in WNV-recovered mice. The signals involved in T cell-microglia interactions are unknown.


    Here, we examined immune cells within the murine WNV-recovered forebrain using single-cell RNA sequencing to identify putative ligand-receptor pairs involved in intercellular communication between T cells and microglia. Clustering and differential gene analyses were followed by protein validation and genetic and antibody-based approaches utilizing an established murine model of WNV recovery in which microglia and complement promote ongoing hippocampal synaptic loss.


    Profiling of host transcriptome immune cells at 25 days post-infection in mice revealed a shift in forebrain homeostatic microglia to activated subpopulations with transcriptional signatures that have previously been observed in studies of neurodegenerative diseases. Importantly, CXCL16/CXCR6, a chemokine signaling pathway involved in TRM cell biology, was identified as critically regulating CXCR6 expressing CD8+TRM cell numbers within the WNV-recovered forebrain. We demonstrate that CXCL16 is highlymore »expressed by all myeloid cells, and its unique receptor, CXCR6, is highly expressed on all CD8+T cells. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we demonstrate that CXCL16/CXCR6 not only is required for the maintenance of WNV-specific CD8 TRM cells in the post-infectious CNS, but also contributes to their expression of TRM cell markers. Moreover, CXCR6+CD8+T cells are required for glial activation and ongoing synapse elimination.


    We provide a comprehensive assessment of the role of CXCL16/CXCR6 as an interaction link between microglia and CD8+T cells that maintains forebrain TRM cells, microglial and astrocyte activation, and ongoing synapse elimination in virally recovered animals. We also show that therapeutic targeting of CXCL16 in mice during recovery may reduce CNS CD8+TRM cells.

    « less