Small molecule chemokine mimetics suggest a molecular basis for the observation that CXCL10 and CXCL11 are allosteric ligands of CXCR3

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The chemokine receptor CXCR3 directs migration of T-cells in response to the ligands CXCL9/Mig, CXCL10/IP-10 and CXCL11/I-TAC. Both ligands and receptors are implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Here, we describe the molecular mechanism by which two synthetic small molecule agonists activate CXCR3. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH As both small molecules are basic, we hypothesized that they formed electrostatic interactions with acidic residues within CXCR3. Nine point mutants of CXCR3 were generated in which an acidic residue was mutated to its amide counterpart. Following transient expression, the ability of the constructs to bind and signal in response to natural and synthetic ligands was examined. KEY RESULTS The CXCR3 mutants D112N, D195N and E196Q were efficiently expressed and responsive in chemotaxis assays to CXCL11 but not to CXCL10 or to either of the synthetic agonists, confirmed with radioligand binding assays. Molecular modelling of both CXCL10 and CXCR3 suggests that the small molecule agonists mimic a region of the '30s loop' (residues 30-40 of CXCL10) which interacts with the intrahelical CXCR3 residue D112, leading to receptor activation. D195 and E196 are located in the second extracellular loop and form putative intramolecular salt bridges required for a CXCR3 conformation that recognizes CXCL10. In contrast, CXCL11 recognition by CXCR3 is largely independent of these residues. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS We provide here a molecular basis for the observation that CXCL10 and CXCL11 are allosteric ligands of CXCR3. Such findings may have implications for the design of CXCR3 antagonists. LINKED ARTICLE This article is commented on by O'Boyle, pp. 895-897 of this issue. To view this commentary visit. © 2011 The British Pharmacological Society.

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British Journal of Pharmacology

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