Scientific Reports

Phosphatidylserine-induced conformational modulation of immune cell exhaustion-associated receptor TIM3

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In the face of chronic cancers and protracted viral infections, human immune cells are known to adopt an exhausted state in which their effector functions are lost. In recent years, a number of inhibitory receptors have been connected to the immune cell exhaustion phenotype; furthermore, ligands capable of activating these receptors have been discovered. The molecular mechanisms by which these ligands affect the exhausted states of immune cells, however, are largely unknown. Here, we present the results of molecular dynamics simulations of one potential exhaustion-associated system: the complex of human inhibitory receptor TIM3 (hTIM3) and its ligand phosphatidylserine (PSF). We find that PSF fundamentally alters the electrostatic environment within hTIM3's Ca2+ binding site, facilitating the formation of a salt bridge and freeing a tyrosine-containing strand. This liberated tyrosine then collapses into a nearby hydrophobic pocket, anchoring a modified conformational ensemble typified by a β-strand rearrangement. The "electrostatic switching/hydrophobic anchoring" mechanism of conformational modulation reported here suggests a new type of process by which TIM3 activation might be achieved. This work also highlights strategies by which PSF-mediated conformational change could be controlled, either through administration of small molecules, execution of mutations, or modification of receptor phosphorylation states.


19 Oct 2017


Scientific Reports