Synthesis of fluorescent analogs of relaxin family peptides and their preliminary in vitro and in vivo characterization.
ABSTRACT: Relaxin, a heterodimeric polypeptide hormone, is a key regulator of collagen metabolism and multiple vascular control pathways in humans and rodents. Its actions are mediated via its cognate G-protein-coupled receptor, RXFP1 although it also "pharmacologically" activates RXFP2, the receptor for the related, insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3), which has specific actions on reproduction and bone metabolism. Therefore, experimental tools to facilitate insights into the distinct biological actions of relaxin and INSL3 are required, particularly for studies of tissues containing both RXFP1 and RXFP2. Here, we chemically functionalized human (H2) relaxin, the RXFP1-selective relaxin analog H2:A(4-24)(F23A), and INSL3 to accommodate a fluorophore without marked reduction in binding or activation propensity. Chemical synthesis of the two chains for each peptide was followed by sequential regioselective formation of their three disulfide bonds. Click chemistry conjugation of Cy5.5 at the B-chain N-terminus, with conservation of the disulfide bonds, yielded analogs displaying appropriate selective binding affinity and ability to activate RXFP1 and/or RXFP2 in vitro. The in vivo biological activity of Cy5.5-H2 relaxin and Cy5.5-H2:A(4-24)(F23A) was confirmed in mice, as acute intracerebroventricular (icv) infusion of these peptides (but not Cy5.5-INSL3) stimulated water drinking, an established behavioral response elicited by central RXFP1 activation. The central distribution of Cy5.5-conjugated peptides was examined in mice killed 30 min after infusion, revealing higher fluorescence within brain tissue near-adjacent to the cerebral ventricle walls relative to deeper brain areas. Production of fluorophore-conjugated relaxin family peptides will facilitate future pharmacological studies to probe the function of H2 relaxin/RXFP1 and INSL3/RXFP2 signaling in vivo while tracking their distribution following central or peripheral administration.
Project description:Relaxin family peptide receptor 2 (RXFP2) is a GPCR known for its role in reproductive function. It is structurally related to the human relaxin receptor RXFP1 and can be activated by human gene-2 (H2) relaxin as well as its cognate ligand insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3). Both receptors possess an N-terminal low-density lipoprotein type a (LDLa) module that is necessary for activation and is joined to a leucine-rich repeat domain by a linker. This linker has been shown to be important for H2 relaxin binding and activation of RXFP1 and herein we investigate the role of the equivalent region of RXFP2. We demonstrate that the linker's highly-conserved N-terminal region is essential for activation of RXFP2 in response to both ligands. In contrast, the linker is necessary for H2 relaxin, but not INSL3, binding. Our results highlight the distinct mechanism by which INSL3 activates RXFP2 whereby ligand binding mediates reorientation of the LDLa module by the linker region to activate the RXFP2 transmembrane domains in conjunction with the INSL3 A-chain. In contrast, relaxin activation of RXFP2 involves a more RXFP1-like mechanism involving binding to the LDLa-linker, reorientation of the LDLa module and activation of the transmembrane domains by the LDLa alone.
Project description:Relaxin and insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) are peptide hormones with a number of important physiological roles in reproduction, regulation of extracellular matrix turnover, and cardiovascular function. Relaxin and INSL3 mediate their actions through the closely related G-protein coupled receptors, relaxin family peptide receptors 1 and 2 (RXFP1 and RXFP2), respectively. These receptors have large extracellular domains (ECD) that contain high-affinity ligand-binding sites within their 10 leucine-rich repeat (LRR)-containing modules. Although relaxin can bind and activate both RXFP1 and RXFP2, INSL3 can only bind and activate RXFP2. To investigate whether this difference is related to the nature of the high-affinity ECD binding site or to differences in secondary binding sites involving the receptor transmembrane (TM) domain, we created a suite of constructs with RXFP1/2 chimeric ECD attached to single TM helices. We show that by changing as little as one LRR, representing four amino acid substitutions, we were able to engineer a high-affinity INSL3-binding site into the ECD of RXFP1. Molecular modeling of the INSL3-RXFP2 interaction based on extensive experimental data highlights the differences in the binding mechanisms of relaxin and INSL3 to the ECD of their cognate receptors. Interestingly, when the engineered RXFP1/2 ECD were introduced into full-length RXFP1 constructs, INSL3 exhibited only low affinity and efficacy on these receptors. These results highlight critical differences both in the ECD binding and in the coordination of the ECD-binding site with the TM domain, and provide new mechanistic insights into the binding and activation events of RXFP1 and RXFP2 by their native hormone ligands.
Project description:Human gene-2 (H2) relaxin is currently in Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of acute heart failure. It is a 53-amino acid insulin-like peptide comprising two chains and three disulfide bonds. It interacts with two of the relaxin family peptide (RXFP) receptors. Although its cognate receptor is RXFP1, it is also able to cross-react with RXFP2, the native receptor for a related peptide, insulin-like peptide 3. In order to understand the basis of this cross-reactivity, it is important to elucidate both binding and activation mechanisms of this peptide. The primary binding mechanism of this hormone has been extensively studied and well defined. H2 relaxin binds to the leucine-rich repeats of RXFP1 and RXFP2 using B-chain-specific residues. However, little is known about the secondary interaction that involves the A-chain of H2 relaxin and transmembrane exoloops of the receptors. We demonstrate here through extensive mutation of the A-chain that the secondary interaction between H2 relaxin and RXFP1 is not driven by any single amino acid, although residues Tyr-3, Leu-20, and Phe-23 appear to contribute. Interestingly, these same three residues are important drivers of the affinity and activity of H2 relaxin for RXFP2 with additional minor contributions from Lys-9, His-12, Lys-17, Arg-18, and Arg-22. Our results provide new insights into the mechanism of secondary activation interaction of RXFP1 and RXFP2 by H2 relaxin, leading to a potent and RXFP1-selective analog, H2:A(4-24)(F23A), which was tested in vitro and in vivo and found to significantly inhibit collagen deposition similar to native H2 relaxin.
Project description:In most mammals the peptide hormone relaxin is a key physiological component regulating early pregnancy and birth. However, synteny analysis shows that the gene encoding ovarian relaxin-2 is deleted in cows and sheep. While, these ruminants appear to exhibit a relaxin-like physiology, as in other mammals, until now a molecular understanding of this has been lacking. Cloning and expression analysis of the cognate bovine receptor for relaxin, RXFP1, as well as of the structurally related receptor, RXFP2, in female tissues, shows that these are expressed in a similar way to other mammals. RXFP1 transcripts are found in ovarian theca cells, endometrium, and myometrium, whereas RXFP2 transcripts are expressed in ovarian theca cells, oocytes, as well as in myometrium. Transfection of receptor-expressing gene constructs into HEK293 cells indicates that bovine RXFP1 has a greater EC50 at 10-50 nM for porcine or human relaxin, compared to human RXFP1. For bovine RXFP2, in contrast, the EC50 is <1 nM for its cognate ligand, bovine INSL3, but also 10-30 nM for porcine or human relaxin. Functional analysis shows that bovine myometrial cells are able to respond to exogenous relaxin and INSL3 with a significant increase in cAMP. Although expressing mRNA for both RXFP1 and RXFP2, bovine follicular theca cells only respond to INSL3 with a dose-dependent increase in cAMP. Altogether the results suggest that the cow is able to compensate for the missing hormone, and moreover imply that relaxin analogs could offer an important therapeutic option in treating female ruminant infertility.
Project description:Insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) is a member of the relaxin/insulin superfamily and is expressed in testicular Leydig cells. Essential for fetal testis descent, INSL3 has been implicated in testicular and sperm function in adult males via interaction with relaxin/insulin-like family peptide receptor 2 (RXFP2). The INSL3 is typically prepared using chemical synthesis or overexpression in Escherichia coli followed by oxidative refolding and proteolysis. Here, we expressed and purified full-length porcine INSL3 (pINSL3) using a silkworm-based Bombyx mori nucleopolyhedrovirus bacmid expression system. Biophysical measurements and proteomic analysis revealed that this recombinant pINSL3 exhibited the correct conformation, with the three critical disulfide bonds observed in native pINSL3, although partial cleavage occurred. In cAMP stimulation assays using RXFP2-expressing HEK293 cells, the recombinant pINSL3 possessed full biological activity. This is the first report concerning the production of fully active pINSL3 without post-expression treatments and provides an efficient production platform for expressing relaxin/insulin superfamily peptides.
Project description:The peptide hormone H2 relaxin has demonstrated promise as a therapeutic, but mimetic development has been hindered by the poorly understood relaxin receptor RXFP1 activation mechanism. H2 relaxin is hypothesized to bind to two distinct ECD sites, which reorientates the N-terminal LDLa module to activate the transmembrane domain. Here we provide evidence for this model in live cells by measuring bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) between nanoluciferase-tagged RXFP1 constructs and fluorescently labeled H2 relaxin (NanoBRET). Additionally, we validate these results using the related RXFP2 receptor and chimeras with an inserted RXFP1-binding domain utilizing NanoBRET and nuclear magnetic resonance studies on recombinant proteins. We therefore provide evidence for the multi-component molecular mechanism of H2 relaxin binding to RXFP1 on the full-length receptor in cells. Also, we show the utility of NanoBRET real-time binding kinetics to reveal subtle binding complexities, which may be overlooked in traditional equilibrium binding assays.
Project description:H2 relaxin is a peptide hormone associated with a number of therapeutically relevant physiological effects, including regulation of collagen metabolism and multiple vascular control pathways. It is currently in phase III clinical trials for the treatment of acute heart failure due to its ability to induce vasodilation and influence renal function. It comprises 53 amino acids and is characterized by two separate polypeptide chains (A-B) that are cross-linked by three disulfide bonds. This size and complex structure represents a considerable challenge for the chemical synthesis of H2 relaxin, a major limiting factor for the exploration of modifications and derivatizations of this peptide, to optimize effect and drug-like characteristics. To address this issue, we describe the solid phase peptide synthesis and structural and functional evaluation of 24 analogues of H2 relaxin with truncations at the termini of its peptide chains. We show that it is possible to significantly truncate both the N and C termini of the B-chain while still retaining potent biological activity. This suggests that these regions are not critical for interactions with the H2 relaxin receptor, RXFP1. In contrast, truncations do reduce the activity of H2 relaxin for the related receptor RXFP2 by improving RXFP1 selectivity. In addition to new mechanistic insights into the function of H2 relaxin, this study identifies a critical active core with 38 amino acids. This minimized core shows similar antifibrotic activity as native H2 relaxin when tested in human BJ3 cells and thus represents an attractive receptor-selective lead for the development of novel relaxin therapeutics.
Project description:The relaxin family peptides, although structurally closely related to insulin, act on a group of four G protein-coupled receptors now known as Relaxin Family Peptide (RXFP) Receptors. The leucine-rich repeat containing RXFP1 and RXFP2 and the small peptide-like RXFP3 and RXFP4 are the physiological targets for relaxin, insulin-like (INSL) peptide 3, relaxin-3 and INSL5, respectively. RXFP1 and RXFP2 have at least two binding sites--a high-affinity site in the leucine-rich repeat region of the ectodomain and a lower-affinity site in an exoloop of the transmembrane region. Although they respond to peptides that are structurally similar, RXFP3 and RXFP4 demonstrate distinct binding properties with relaxin-3 being the only peptide that can recognize these receptors in addition to RXFP1. Activation of RXFP1 or RXFP2 causes increased cAMP and the initial response for both receptors is the resultant of Gs-mediated activation and G(oB)-mediated inhibition of adenylate cyclase. With RXFP1, an additional delayed increase in cAMP involves betagamma subunits released from G(i3). In contrast, RXFP3 and RXFP4 inhibit adenylate cyclase and RXFP3 causes ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Drugs acting at RXFP1 have potential for the treatment of diseases involving tissue fibrosis such as cardiac and renal failure, asthma and scleroderma and may also be useful to facilitate embryo implantation. Activators of RXFP2 may be useful to treat cryptorchidism and infertility and inhibitors have potential as contraceptives. Studies of the distribution and function of RXFP3 suggest that it is a potential target for anti-anxiety and anti-obesity drugs.
Project description:The human relaxin peptide family consists of seven cystine-rich peptides, four of which are known to signal through relaxin family peptide receptors, RXFP1-4. As these peptides play a vital role physiologically and in various diseases, they are of considerable importance for drug discovery and development. Detailed structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies towards understanding the role of important residues in each of these peptides have been reported over the years and utilized for the design of antagonists and minimized agonist variants. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the SAR of human relaxin 2 (H2 relaxin), human relaxin 3 (H3 relaxin), human insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) and human insulin-like peptide 5 (INSL5). LINKED ARTICLES:This article is part of a themed section on Recent Progress in the Understanding of Relaxin Family Peptides and their Receptors. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v174.10/issuetoc.
Project description:Human gene-2 relaxin (H2 relaxin) is a pleiotropic hormone with powerful vasodilatory and anti-fibrotic properties which has led to its clinical evaluation and provisional FDA approval as a treatment for acute heart failure. The diverse effects of H2 relaxin are mediated via its cognate G protein coupled-receptor (GPCR), Relaxin Family Peptide Receptor (RXFP1), leading to stimulation of a combination of cell signalling pathways that includes cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (ERK)1/2. However, its complex two-chain (A and B), disulfide-rich insulin-like structure is a limitation to its facile preparation, availability and affordability. Furthermore, its strong activation of cAMP signaling is likely responsible for reported detrimental tumor-promoting actions that may preclude long-term use of this drug for treating human disease. Here we report the design and synthesis of a H2 relaxin B-chain-only analogue, B7-33, which was shown to bind to RXFP1 and preferentially activate the pERK pathway over cAMP in cells that endogenously expressed RXFP1. Thus, B7-33 represents the first functionally selective agonist of the complex GPCR, RXFP1. Importantly, this small peptide agonist prevented or reversed organ fibrosis and dysfunction in three pre-clinical rodent models of heart or lung disease with similar potency to H2 relaxin. The molecular mechanism behind the strong anti-fibrotic actions of B7-33 involved its activation of RXFP1-angiotensin II type 2 receptor heterodimers that induced selective downstream signaling of pERK1/2 and the collagen-degrading enzyme, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2. Furthermore, in contrast to H2 relaxin, B7-33 did not promote prostate tumor growth in vivo. Our results represent the first known example of the minimisation of a two-chain cyclic insulin-like peptide to a single-chain linear peptide that retains potent beneficial agonistic effects.