An interleukin-6 receptor-dependent molecular switch mediates signal transduction of the IL-27 cytokine subunit p28 (IL-30) via a gp130 protein receptor homodimer.

Christoph Garbers, Björn Spudy, Samadhi Aparicio-Siegmund, Georg H Waetzig, Jan Sommer, Christoph Hölscher, Stefan Rose-John, Joachim Grötzinger, Inken Lorenzen, Jürgen Scheller
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JBC papers in press
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IL-27 consists of the cytokine subunit p28 and the non-signaling α-receptor EBI3. p28 was shown to additionally act via the non-signaling membrane-bound IL-6 α-receptor (IL-6R) as an agonistic cytokine but also as a gp130 β-receptor antagonist, leading to inhibition of IL-6 signaling. Here, we developed a strategy for bacterial expression, purification, and refolding of murine p28. We show that p28 did not interfere with IL-6- or IL-27-induced signaling, indicating that p28 has no antagonistic properties. Moreover, we demonstrate that murine p28 acts as an agonistic cytokine via the murine and human IL-6R, indicating that p28 exhibits no species specificity. p28 was able to induce p28-trans-signaling via the soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R), a characteristic property that was initially described for trans-signaling of IL-6 via the sIL-6R. Of notice, p28/sIL-6R trans-signaling was inhibited by the IL-6 trans-signaling antagonist, soluble gp130. At higher concentrations, p28 but not IL-6 was able to induce signaling even in the absence of IL-6R or EBI3. Although IL-27 signals via a heterodimer of the β-receptor chains gp130 and Wsx-1, p28/IL-6R specifically recruits two gp130 β-receptor chains for signal transduction. The binding of p28 to a gp130/Wsx-1 heterodimer or a gp130 homodimer is highly selective and controlled by a novel molecular switch induced by EBI3 or IL-6R, respectively.