Human interleukin 15 (hIL15) is a soluble cytokine that plays a key role in the maintenance of long-lasting responses against pathogens and a valuable target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. In this study, we sought to elucidate the thermodynamic basis of the recognition mechanism for its private α-receptor (hIL15Rα), considered the first step of the interleukin's activation pathway. Binding of wild-type hIL15 to its α-receptor is characterized by a very slow dissociation rate constant and driven by a favorable enthalpy change. We further studied the kinetic and energetic consequences of substituting residues of hIL15 located at the contact interface by means of the surface plasmon resonance technique. Replacement of negatively charged residues with Ala indicates that the energetics of interaction is primarily driven by electrostatic forces, manifested by a dramatic acceleration of the dissociation step and a reduction of favorable binding enthalpy. Our analyses also unveiled a novel and critical role for residue Tyr26 in the interaction, which facilitates desolvation of key charged residues during the assembly of the complex. These results were rationalized in terms of a previously reported structure of hIL15·hIL15α, demonstrating that the binding energetics is dominated by interactions occurring at three hot spots whose spatial locations coincide with a previously proposed structural division of the contact interface in three regions. Specifically, Region 1 is the main contributor to the binding energy of the complex by establishing very favorable electrostatic interactions with the receptor; Region 2 is also dominated by electrostatic forces, although of a lesser intensity; and Region 3 confers specificity to the association by means of high shape complementarity and by bringing additional stabilization energy to the complex. The biological impact of hIL15 mutations with the most effect on α-receptor binding was evaluated in a cell-based proliferation assay, validating the conclusions of our thermodynamic analyses and highlighting the functional importance of molecular contacts that promote prolonged binding of the interleukin to the α-receptor. In closing, the thermodynamics and physicochemical nature of the interactions observed in IL15h·IL15Rα complex, together with interactions in Region 3 of the interleukin, poses a stark contrast with the structurally related and sometimes functionally redundant interleukin 2.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology