Unique structure and dynamics of the EphA5 ligand binding domain mediate its binding specificity as revealed by X-ray crystallography, NMR and MD simulations.
ABSTRACT: 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:Eph receptor tyrosine kinases EphB2 and EphB3, and ephrin-B1 ligand play a critical role in regulating small intestinal epithelial cell migration. Although well studied in developing brain, the expression pattern of Ephs/ephrins has not been delineated in the developing small intestine.To examine the gene expression of all known members of Ephs/ephrins during development of mouse small intestine.We examined the expression of 21 A- and B-Ephs/ephrins in mouse small intestine or the Caco-2 cell line using reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), quantitative (q)RT-PCR, and immunohistochemical analyses. EphB2-expressing cells from isolated crypts were detected by immunofluorescence and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analyses.With the exception of EphA5, all family members were expressed throughout the intestine at all ages examined. Most were uniformly expressed. In contrast, levels of EphA4, EphA8, EphB4, and ephrin-B2 messenger RNA (mRNA) were highest during early fetal development and declined with age. At E15, EphB2 and EphB4 proteins were diffusely expressed in proliferating stratified intestinal epithelial cells. By E18, the proteins had become localized to cell membranes of columnar epithelial cells within intervillus regions, and later were expressed on epithelial cell membranes in adult crypts. EphB2-expressing cells can be specifically isolated from crypt cell fractions.The current study represents the first analysis of Ephs/ephrins during intestinal development. The elevated expression of EphA4, EphA8, EphB4, and ephrin-B2 during the fetal period of intestinal morphogenesis suggests an important role in development. Continued intestinal expression of other family members implicates a role in differentiation.
Project description:EphA and EphB receptors preferentially bind ephrin-A and ephrin-B ligands, respectively, but EphA4 is exceptional for its ability to bind all ephrins. Here, we report the crystal structure of the EphA4 ligand-binding domain in complex with ephrin-B2, which represents the first structure of an EphA-ephrin-B interclass complex. A loose fit of the ephrin-B2 G-H loop in the EphA4 ligand-binding channel is consistent with a relatively weak binding affinity. Additional surface contacts also exist between EphA4 residues Gln(12) and Glu(14) and ephrin-B2. Mutation of Gln(12) and Glu(14) does not cause significant structural changes in EphA4 or changes in its affinity for ephrin-A ligands. However, the EphA4 mutant has approximately 10-fold reduced affinity for ephrin-B ligands, indicating that the surface contacts are critical for interclass but not intraclass ephrin binding. Thus, EphA4 uses different strategies to bind ephrin-A or ephrin-B ligands and achieve binding promiscuity. NMR characterization also suggests that the contacts of Gln(12) and Glu(14) with ephrin-B2 induce dynamic changes throughout the whole EphA4 ligand-binding domain. Our findings shed light on the distinctive features that enable the remarkable ligand binding promiscuity of EphA4 and suggest that diverse strategies are needed to effectively disrupt different Eph-ephrin complexes.
Project description:Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands mediate cell signaling during normal and oncogenic development. Eph signaling is initiated in a multistep process leading to the assembly of higher-order Eph/ephrin clusters that set off bidirectional signaling in interacting cells. Eph and ephrins are divided in two subclasses based on their abilities to bind and activate each other and on sequence conservation. EphA4 is an exception to the general rule because it can be activated by both A- and B-class ephrin ligands. Here we present high-resolution structures of the complete EphA4 ectodomain and its complexes with ephrin-A5. The structures reveal how ligand binding promotes conformational changes in the EphA4 ligand-binding domain allowing the formation of signaling clusters at the sites of cell-cell contact. In addition, the structural data, combined with structure-based mutagenesis, reveal a previously undescribed receptor-receptor interaction between the EphA4 ligand-binding and membrane-proximal fibronectin domains, which is functionally important for efficient receptor activation.
Project description:The Eph family of receptors is the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases, but it remains poorly studied in lung cancer. We aimed to systematically explore the human Eph receptors and their ligands, the ephrins, in lung adenocarcinoma. The prognostic impact of Eph receptor and ephrin gene expression was analyzed using 2 independent cohorts of lung adenocarcinoma. Gene expression profiles in lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal adjacent lung were studied in 3 independent cohorts and in cell lines. Gene expression profiles were validated with quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and Western blotting in cell lines. Functional studies to assess the role of Eph receptor A4 (EphA4) were carried out in vitro. The biological effects of EphA4 in lung cancer cell lines were assayed following overexpression and knockdown. Of the 11 Eph receptors and 8 ephrins analyzed, only EphA4 and ephrin A1 gene expression were consistently associated with an improved outcome in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Expression levels of EphA4 by microarray correlated well with expression levels measured by qPCR and Western blotting. EphA4 overexpression reduced cell migration and invasion but did not affect cell cycle, apoptosis, or drug sensitivity. Surprisingly, EphA4 was expressed at higher levels in cancer compared with non-cancer tissues and cell lines. EphA4 gene expression is associated with an improved outcome in patients with resected lung adenocarcinoma, possibly by affecting cancer cell migration and invasion.
Project description:Eph kinases are receptor tyrosine kinases whose ligands, the ephrins, are also expressed on the surface of cells. Interactions between Eph kinases and ephrins on adjacent cells play a central role in neuronal patterning and vasculogenesis. Here we examine the expression of ephrins and Eph kinases on human blood platelets and explore their role in the formation of the hemostatic plug. The results show that human platelets express EphA4 and EphB1, and the ligand, ephrinB1. Forced clustering of EphA4 or ephrinB1 led to cytoskeletal reorganization, adhesion to fibrinogen, and alpha-granule secretion. Clustering of ephrinB1 also caused activation of the Ras family member, Rap1B. In platelets that had been activated by ADP and allowed to aggregate, EphA4 formed complexes with two tyrosine kinases, Fyn and Lyn, and the cell adhesion molecule, L1. Blockade of Eph/ephrin interactions prevented the formation of these complexes and caused platelet aggregation at low ADP concentrations to become more readily reversible. We propose that when sustained contacts between platelets have occurred in response to agonists such as collagen, ADP, and thrombin, the binding of ephrins to Eph kinases on adjacent platelets provides a mechanism to perpetuate signaling and promote stable platelet aggregation.
Project description:Eph receptors are widely expressed during cerebral cortical development, yet a role for Eph signaling in the generation of cells during corticogenesis has not been shown. Cortical progenitor cells selectively express one receptor, EphA4, and reducing EphA4 signaling in cultured progenitors suppressed proliferation, decreasing cell number. In vivo, EphA4(-/-) cortex had a reduced area, fewer cells and less cell division compared with control cortex. To understand the effects of EphA4 signaling in corticogenesis, EphA4-mediated signaling was selectively depressed or elevated in cortical progenitors in vivo. Compared with control cells, cells with reduced EphA4 signaling were rare and mitotically inactive. Conversely, overexpression of EphA4 maintained cells in their progenitor states at the expense of subsequent maturation, enlarging the progenitor pool. These results support a role for EphA4 in the autonomous promotion of cell proliferation during corticogenesis. Although most ephrins were undetectable in cortical progenitors, ephrin B1 was highly expressed. Our analyses demonstrate that EphA4 and ephrin B1 bind to each other, thereby initiating signaling. Furthermore, overexpression of ephrin B1 stimulated cell division of neighboring cells, supporting the hypothesis that ephrin B1-initiated forward signaling of EphA4 promotes cortical cell division.
Project description:The ADAM10 transmembrane metalloprotease cleaves a variety of cell surface proteins that are important in disease, including ligands for receptor tyrosine kinases of the erbB and Eph families. ADAM10-mediated cleavage of ephrins, the ligands for Eph receptors, is suggested to control Eph/ephrin-mediated cell-cell adhesion and segregation, important during normal developmental processes, and implicated in tumour neo-angiogenesis and metastasis. We previously identified a substrate-binding pocket in the ADAM10 C domain that binds the EphA/ephrin-A complex thereby regulating ephrin cleavage. We have now generated monoclonal antibodies specifically recognising this region of ADAM10, which inhibit ephrin cleavage and Eph/ephrin-mediated cell function, including ephrin-induced Eph receptor internalisation, phosphorylation and Eph-mediated cell segregation. Our studies confirm the important role of ADAM10 in cell-cell interactions mediated by both A- and B-type Eph receptors, and suggest antibodies against the ADAM10 substrate-recognition pocket as promising therapeutic agents, acting by inhibiting cleavage of ephrins and potentially other ADAM10 substrates.
Project description:Intercellular signaling via the Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, acts to shape many regions of the developing brain. One intriguing consequence of Eph signaling is the control of mixing between discrete cell populations in the developing hindbrain, contributing to the formation of segregated rhombomeres. Since the thalamus is also a parcellated structure comprised of discrete nuclei, might Eph signaling play a parallel role in cell segregation in this brain structure? Analyses of expression reveal that several Eph family members are expressed in the forming thalamus and that cells expressing particular receptors form cellular groupings as development proceeds. Specifically, expression of receptors EphA4 or EphA7 and ligand ephrin-A5 is localized to distinct thalamic domains. EphA4 and EphA7 are often coexpressed in regions of the forming thalamus, with each receptor marking discrete thalamic domains. In contrast, ephrin-A5 is expressed by a limited group of thalamic cells. Within the ventral thalamus, EphA4 is present broadly, occasionally overlapping with ephrin-A5 expression. EphA7 is more restricted in its expression and is largely nonoverlapping with ephrin-A5. In mutant mice lacking one or both receptors or ephrin-A5, the appearance of the venteroposterolateral (VPL) and venteroposteromedial (VPM) nuclear complex is altered compared to wild type mice. These in vivo results support a role for Eph family members in the definition of the thalamic nuclei. In parallel, in vitro analysis reveals a hierarchy of mixing among cells expressing ephrin-A5 with cells expressing EphA4 alone, EphA4 and EphA7 together, or EphA7 alone. Together, these data support a model in which EphA molecules promote the parcellation of discrete thalamic nuclei by limiting the extent of cell mixing.
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.