Structure of the ligand-binding domain of the EphB2 receptor at 2 A resolution.
ABSTRACT: Eph tyrosine kinase receptors, the largest group of receptor tyrosine kinases, and their ephrin ligands are important mediators of cell-cell communication regulating cell attachment, shape and mobility. Recently, several Eph receptors and ephrins have also been found to play important roles in the progression of cancer. Structural and biophysical studies have established detailed information on the binding and recognition of Eph receptors and ephrins. The initial high-affinity binding of Eph receptors to ephrin occurs through the penetration of an extended G-H loop of the ligand into a hydrophobic channel on the surface of the receptor. Consequently, the G-H loop-binding channel of Eph receptors is the main target in the search for Eph antagonists that could be used in the development of anticancer drugs and several peptides have been shown to specifically bind Eph receptors and compete with the cognate ephrin ligands. However, the molecular details of the conformational changes upon Eph/ephrin binding have remained speculative, since two of the loops were unstructured in the original model of the free EphB2 structure and their conformational changes upon ligand binding could consequently not be analyzed in detail. In this study, the X-ray structure of unbound EphB2 is reported at a considerably higher 2 A resolution, the conformational changes that the important receptor loops undergo upon ligand binding are described and the consequences that these findings have for the development of Eph antagonists are discussed.
Project description:The 16 EphA and EphB receptors represent the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases, and their interactions with 9 ephrin-A and ephrin-B ligands initiate bidirectional signals controlling many physiological and pathological processes. Most interactions occur between receptor and ephrins of the same class, and only EphA4 can bind all A and B ephrins. To understand the structural and dynamic principles that enable Eph receptors to utilize the same jellyroll ?-sandwich fold to bind ephrins, the VAPB-MSP domain, peptides and small molecules, we have used crystallography, NMR and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to determine the first structure and dynamics of the EphA5 ligand-binding domain (LBD), which only binds ephrin-A ligands. Unexpectedly, despite being unbound, the high affinity ephrin-binding pocket of EphA5 resembles that of other Eph receptors bound to ephrins, with a helical conformation over the J-K loop and an open pocket. The openness of the pocket is further supported by NMR hydrogen/deuterium exchange data and MD simulations. Additionally, the EphA5 LBD undergoes significant picosecond-nanosecond conformational exchanges over the loops, as revealed by NMR and MD simulations, but lacks global conformational exchanges on the microsecond-millisecond time scale. This is markedly different from the EphA4 LBD, which shares 74% sequence identity and 87% homology. Consequently, the unbound EphA5 LBD appears to comprise an ensemble of open conformations that have only small variations over the loops and appear ready to bind ephrin-A ligands. These findings show how two proteins with high sequence homology and structural similarity are still able to achieve distinctive binding specificities through different dynamics, which may represent a general mechanism whereby the same protein fold can serve for different functions. Our findings also suggest that a promising strategy to design agonists/antagonists with high affinity and selectivity might be to target specific dynamic states of the Eph receptor LBDs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The role of dynamics in protein functions including signal transduction is just starting to be deciphered. Eph receptors with 16 members divided into A- and B- subclasses are respectively activated by 9 A- and B-ephrin ligands. EphA4 is the only receptor capable of binding to all 9 ephrins and small molecules with overlapped interfaces. RESULTS:We first determined the structures of the EphA4 ligand binding domain (LBD) in two crystals of P1 space group. Noticeably, 8 EphA4 molecules were found in one asymmetric unit and consequently from two crystals we obtained 16 structures, which show significant conformational variations over the functionally critical A-C, D-E, G-H and J-K loops. The 16 new structures, together with previous 9 ones, can be categorized into two groups: closed and open forms which resemble the uncomplexed and complexed structures of the EphA4 LBD respectively. To assess whether the conformational diversity over the loops primarily results from the intrinsic dynamics, we initiated 30-ns molecular dynamics (MD) simulations for both closed and open forms. The results indicate that the loops do have much higher intrinsic dynamics, which is further unravelled by NMR H/D exchange experiments. During simulations, the open form has the RMS deviations slightly larger than those of the closed one, suggesting the open form may be less stable in the absence of external contacts. Furthermore, no obvious exchange between two forms is observed within 30 ns, implying that they are dynamically separated. CONCLUSIONS:Our study provides the first experimental and computational result revealing that the intrinsic dynamics are most likely underlying the conformational diversity observed for the EphA4 LBD loops mediating the binding affinity and specificity. Interestingly, the open conformation of the EphA4 LBD is slightly unstable in the absence of it natural ligand ephrins, implying that the conformational transition from the closed to open has to be driven by the high-affinity interaction with ephrins because the weak interaction with small molecule was found to be insufficient to trigger the transition. Our results therefore highlight the key role of protein dynamics in Eph-ephrin signalling and would benefit future design of agonists/antagonists targeting Eph receptors.
Project description:The Eph receptor tyrosine kinase/ephrin ligand system regulates a wide spectrum of physiological processes, while its dysregulation has been implicated in cancer progression. The human EphA3 receptor is widely upregulated in the tumor microenvironment and is highly expressed in some types of cancer cells. Furthermore, EphA3 is among the most highly mutated genes in lung cancer and it is also frequently mutated in other cancers. We report the structure of the ligand-binding domain of the EphA3 receptor in complex with its preferred ligand, ephrin-A5. The structure of the complex reveals a pronounced tilt of the ephrin-A5 ligand compared to its orientation when bound to the EphA2 and EphB2 receptors and similar to its orientation when bound to EphA4. This tilt brings an additional area of ephrin-A5 into contact with regions of EphA3 outside the ephrin-binding pocket thereby enlarging the size of the interface, which is consistent with the high binding affinity of ephrin-A5 for EphA3. This large variation in the tilt of ephrin-A5 bound to different Eph receptors has not been previously observed for other ephrins.
Project description:Eph-ephrin interactions control the signal transduction between cells and play an important role in carcinogenesis and other diseases. The interactions between Eph receptors and ephrins of the same subclass are promiscuous; there are cross-interactions between some subclasses, but not all. To understand how Eph-ephrin interactions can be both promiscuous and specific, we investigated sixteen energy landscapes of four Eph receptors (A2, A4, B2, and B4) interacting with four ephrin ligands (A1, A2, A5, and B2). We generated conformational ensembles and recognition energy landscapes starting from separated Eph and ephrin molecules and proceeding up to the formation of Eph-ephrin complexes. Analysis of the Eph-ephrin recognition trajectories and the co-evolution entropy of 400 ligand binding domains of Eph receptor and 241 ephrin ligands identified conserved residues during the recognition process. Our study correctly predicted the promiscuity and specificity of the interactions and provided insights into their recognition. The dynamic conformational changes during Eph-ephrin recognition can be described by progressive conformational selection and population shift events, with two dynamic salt bridges between EphB4 and ephrin-B2 contributing to the specific recognition. EphA3 cancer-related mutations lowered the binding energies. The specificity is not only controlled by the final stage of the interaction across the protein-protein interface, but also has large contributions from binding kinetics with the help of dynamic intermediates along the pathway from the separated Eph and ephrin to the Eph-ephrin complex.
Project description:Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and ephrin ligands constitute an important cell communication system that controls development, tissue homeostasis and many pathological processes. Various Eph receptors/ephrins are present in essentially all cell types and their expression is often dysregulated by injury and disease. Thus, the 14 Eph receptors are attracting increasing attention as a major class of potential drug targets. In particular, agents that bind to the extracellular ephrin-binding pocket of these receptors show promise for medical applications. This pocket comprises a broad and shallow groove surrounded by several flexible loops, which makes peptides particularly suitable to target it with high affinity and selectivity. Accordingly, a number of peptides that bind to Eph receptors with micromolar affinity have been identified using phage display and other approaches. These peptides are generally antagonists that inhibit ephrin binding and Eph receptor/ ephrin signaling, but some are agonists mimicking ephrin-induced Eph receptor activation. Importantly, some of the peptides are exquisitely selective for single Eph receptors. Most identified peptides are linear, but recently the considerable advantages of cyclic scaffolds have been recognized, particularly in light of potential optimization towards drug leads. To date, peptide improvements have yielded derivatives with low nanomolar Eph receptor binding affinity, high resistance to plasma proteases and/or long in vivo half-life, exemplifying the merits of peptides for Eph receptor targeting. Besides their modulation of Eph receptor/ephrin function, peptides can also serve to deliver conjugated imaging and therapeutic agents or various types of nanoparticles to tumors and other diseased tissues presenting target Eph receptors.
Project description:We have investigated possible roles of the Eph family receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligand ephrins in the developing primary olfactory nerve pathway in the moth Manduca sexta. The Manduca homologs of the Eph receptor (MsEph) and ephrin ligand (MsEphrin) are most closely related to Drosophila Eph and ephrin, respectively. In situ labeling with Fc-fusion probes, in which IgG Fc was linked to the extracellular domain of MsEph (Eph-Fc) or MsEphrin (ephrin-Fc), reveals that both Eph receptors and ephrins are expressed on axons of olfactory receptor cells (ORCs) during their ingrowth to the primary center, the antennal lobe (AL). Interestingly, Eph receptors and ephrins are differentially distributed among identifiable glomeruli such that glomeruli with high receptor staining show little or no ligand staining, and vice versa, suggesting a complementary Eph-ephrin expression by subsets of ORC axons innervating a particular set of glomeruli. In contrast, neither Eph receptors nor ephrins are detectable in intrinsic components of the AL. In vitro, ephrin-Fc and Eph-Fc, when present homogeneously in the substratum, inhibit neurite outgrowth from olfactory epithelial explants. Moreover, in patterned substratum, neurites growing on the standard substratum turn or stop after encountering the test substratum containing ephrin-Fc. These in vitro observations indicate that MsEphrin can act as an inhibitor/repulsive cue for ORC axons. Based on results from in situ and in vitro experiments, we hypothesize that Eph receptors and ephrins mediate axon sorting and fasciculation through repulsive axon-axon interactions.
Project description:Ephrin receptors interact with membrane-bound ephrin ligands to regulate contact-mediated attraction or repulsion between opposing cells, thereby influencing tissue morphogenesis. Cell repulsion requires bidirectional trans-endocytosis of clustered Eph-ephrin complexes at cell interfaces, but the mechanisms underlying this process are poorly understood. Here, we identified an actin-regulating pathway allowing ephrinB(+) cells to trans-endocytose EphB receptors from opposing cells. Live imaging revealed Rac-dependent F-actin enrichment at sites of EphB2 internalization, but not during vesicle trafficking. Systematic depletion of Rho family GTPases and their regulatory proteins identified the Rac subfamily and the Rac-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor Tiam2 as key components of EphB2 trans-endocytosis, a pathway previously implicated in Eph forward signaling, in which ephrins act as in trans ligands of Eph receptors. However, unlike in Eph signaling, this pathway is not required for uptake of soluble ligands in ephrinB(+) cells. We also show that this pathway is required for EphB2-stimulated contact repulsion. These results support the existence of a conserved pathway for EphB trans-endocytosis that removes the physical tether between cells, thereby enabling cell repulsion.
Project description:The Eph receptor tyrosine kinases regulate a variety of physiological and pathological processes not only during development but also in adult organs, and therefore they represent a promising class of drug targets. The EphA4 receptor plays important roles in the inhibition of the regeneration of injured axons, synaptic plasticity, platelet aggregation, and likely in certain types of cancer. Here we report the first crystal structure of the EphA4 ligand-binding domain, which adopts the same jellyroll beta-sandwich architecture as shown previously for EphB2 and EphB4. The similarity with EphB receptors is high in the core beta-stranded regions, whereas large variations exist in the loops, particularly the D-E and J-K loops, which form the high affinity ephrin binding channel. We also used isothermal titration calorimetry, NMR spectroscopy, and computational docking to characterize the binding to EphA4 of two small molecules, 4- and 5-(2,5 dimethyl-pyrrol-1-yl)-2-hydroxybenzoic acid which antagonize ephrin-induced effects in EphA4-expressing cells. We show that the two molecules bind to the EphA4 ligand-binding domain with K(d) values of 20.4 and 26.4 microm, respectively. NMR heteronuclear single quantum coherence titrations revealed that upon binding, both molecules significantly perturb EphA4 residues Ile(31)-Met(32) in the D-E loop, Gln(43) in the E beta-strand, and Ile(131)-Gly(132) in the J-K loop. Molecular docking shows that they can occupy a cavity in the high affinity ephrin binding channel of EphA4 in a similar manner, by interacting mainly with the EphA4 residues in the E strand and D-E and J-K loops. However, many of the interactions observed in Eph receptor-ephrin complexes are absent, which is consistent with the small size of the two molecules and may account for their relatively weak binding affinity. Thus, our studies provide the first published structure of the ligand-binding domain of an EphA receptor of the A subclass. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that the high affinity ephrin binding channel of the Eph receptors is amenable to targeting with small molecule antagonists and suggest avenues for further optimization.
Project description:The Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases has been implicated in tumorigenesis as well as pathological forms of angiogenesis. Understanding how to modulate the interaction of Eph receptors with their ephrin ligands is therefore of critical interest for the development of therapeutics to treat cancer. Previous work identified a set of 12-mer peptides that displayed moderate binding affinity but high selectivity for the EphB2 receptor. The SNEW antagonistic peptide inhibited the interaction of EphB2 with ephrinB2, with an IC50 of approximately 15 microm. To gain a better molecular understanding of how to inhibit Eph/ephrin binding, we determined the crystal structure of the EphB2 receptor in complex with the SNEW peptide to 2.3-A resolution. The peptide binds in the hydrophobic ligand-binding cleft of the EphB2 receptor, thus competing with the ephrin ligand for receptor binding. However, the binding interactions of the SNEW peptide are markedly different from those described for the TNYL-RAW peptide, which binds to the ligand-binding cleft of EphB4, indicating a novel mode of antagonism. Nevertheless, we identified a conserved structural motif present in all known receptor/ligand interfaces, which may serve as a scaffold for the development of therapeutic leads. The EphB2-SNEW complex crystallized as a homodimer, and the residues involved in the dimerization interface are similar to those implicated in mediating tetramerization of EphB2-ephrinB2 complexes. The structure of EphB2 in complex with the SNEW peptide reveals novel binding determinants that could serve as starting points in the development of compounds that modulate Eph receptor/ephrin interactions and biological activities.
Project description:Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and ephrin ligands control many physiological and pathological processes, and molecules interfering with their interaction are useful probes to elucidate their complex biological functions. Moreover, targeting Eph receptors might enable new strategies to inhibit cancer progression and pathological angiogenesis as well as promote nerve regeneration. Because our previous work suggested the importance of the salicylic acid group in antagonistic small molecules targeting Eph receptors, we screened a series of salicylic acid derivatives to identify novel Eph receptor antagonists. This identified a disalicylic acid-furanyl derivative that inhibits ephrin-A5 binding to EphA4 with an IC(50) of 3 ?m in ELISAs. This compound, which appears to bind to the ephrin-binding pocket of EphA4, also targets several other Eph receptors. Furthermore, it inhibits EphA2 and EphA4 tyrosine phosphorylation in cells stimulated with ephrin while not affecting phosphorylation of EphB2, which is not a target receptor. In endothelial cells, the disalicylic acid-furanyl derivative inhibits EphA2 phosphorylation in response to TNF? and capillary-like tube formation on Matrigel, two effects that depend on EphA2 interaction with endogenous ephrin-A1. These findings suggest that salicylic acid derivatives could be used as starting points to design new small molecule antagonists of Eph receptors.