The helical cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) assembles a multiprotein receptor complex. The starting event in the activation of intracellular signaling is the binding of the IL-6/IL-6Rα subcomplex to two gp130 chains. The homodimerization of gp130 is triggered by two distinct and independent regions of IL-6 called sites 2 and 3. Several IL-6 antagonists have been obtained that affect signaling, but not IL-6·IL-6Rα subcomplex formation. In this paper, we analyze in detail the impact of these antagonists on gp130 binding and dimerization and show that each signaling variant affects gp130 dimerization in vitro and that biological activity on cells decreases in precise parallel to the decrease in gp130 dimerization in vitro. All IL-6 antagonists can be classified into two groups, mapping at either site 2 or 3 in correspondence to their mode of interaction with gp130. We found that site 3 is a large region, which includes residues at the beginning of helix D spatially flanked by residues in the putative AB loop and located at one extremity of the cytokine 4-helix bundle. Interestingly, in leukemia inhibitory factor, another cytokine that signals through gp130, site 3, is topologically conserved but has evolved to bind leukemia inhibitory factor receptor.
ASJC Scopus subject areas