A pinboard by
Georgios Pantouris

Postdoctoral research associate, Yale University


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and its cell surface receptor CD74 are two proteins with a profound role in hematological cancers, where their overexpression is associated with tumor survival, proliferation and metastasis. Due to the lack of knowledge about the MIF-CD74 interaction points, an FDA-approved drug is yet to be developed. In addition to its extracellular role, MIF promotes cancer survival through a number of intracellular functions. We anticipate that an inhibitor—which binds to MIF, thereby blocking both the intracellular and extracellular functions of the protein—may provide the foundation for the development of a therapeutic agent against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). Crystallographic analyses revealed an MIF inhibitor with a novel mode of binding. Our preliminary findings show that the compound binds to MIF, inhibiting its intracellular and extracellular functions such as interactions with protein partners and binding to CD74. Our findings provide the foundation for the development of new therapeutics that target the MIF-CD74 axis.


Modeling of both shared and distinct interactions between MIF and its homologue D-DT with their common receptor CD74.

Abstract: D-dopachrome tautomerase (D-DT) shares amino acid sequence similarity, structural architecture and biological activity with the cytokine MIF. Recent studies show that the two protein homologs also bind to the same cell surface receptor, CD74, to activate the ERK1/2 pathway that ultimately leads to pro-inflammatory and pro-survival gene expression. We recently showed that RTL1000 and DRa1-MOG-35-55, two biological drugs with potent anti-inflammatory properties that treat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice, bind to the cell surface receptor CD74 with high affinity and compete with MIF for binding to the same regions of CD74. Computational modeling of MIF and RTL1000 binding interactions with CD74 predicted the presence of three CD74 binding regions for each MIF homotrimer. Through a similar approach we have now expanded our work to study the D-DT (MIF-2) interaction with CD74 that is mainly defined by three elements scattered throughout the disordered regions of the interacting molecules. The model predicted: (a) a hydrophobic cradle between CD74 and D-DT consisting of N-terminal tyrosine residues of three CD74 monomers arranged in a planar alignment interacts with aromatic amino acid residues located in the disordered D-DT C-terminus; (b) a triad consisting of the E103 residue on one D-DT monomer in close contact with R179 and S181 on one chain of the CD74 trimer forms an intermolecular salt bridge; and (c) amino acid residues on the C-terminus random coil of CD74 chain C form a long interacting area of ∼500Å(2) with a disordered region of D-DT chain B. These three binding elements were also present in MIF/CD74 binding interactions, with involvement of identical or highly similar amino acid residues in each MIF homotrimer that partner with the exact same residues in CD74. Topologically, however, the location of the three CD74 binding regions of the D-DT homotrimer differs substantially from that of the three MIF binding regions. This key difference in orientation appears to derive from a sequence insertion in D-DT that topologically limits binding to only one CD74 molecule per D-DT homotrimer, in contrast to predicted binding of up to three CD74 molecules per MIF homotrimer. These results have implications for the manner in which D-DT and MIF compete with each other for binding to the CD74 receptor and for the relative potency of DRa1-MOG-35-55 and RTL1000 for competitive inhibition of D-DT and MIF binding and activation through CD74.

Pub.: 31 Aug '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Structural basis for decreased induction of class IB PI3-kinases expression by MIF inhibitors.

Abstract: Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a master regulator of proinflammatory cytokines and plays pathological roles when not properly regulated in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, atherosclerosis, asthma and cancer. Unlike canonical cytokines, MIF has vestigial keto-enol tautomerase activity. Most of the current MIF inhibitors were screened for the inhibition of this enzymatic activity. However, only some of the enzymatic inhibitors inhibit receptor-mediated biological functions of MIF, such as cell recruitment, through an unknown molecular mechanism. The goal of this study was to understand the molecular basis underlying the pharmacological inhibition of biological functions of MIF. Here, we demonstrate how the structural changes caused upon inhibitor binding translate into the alteration of MIF-induced downstream signalling. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor activates phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) that play a pivotal role in immune cell recruitment in health and disease. There are several different PI3K isoforms, but little is known about how they respond to MIF. We demonstrate that MIF up-regulates the expression of Class IB PI3Ks in leucocytes. We also demonstrate that MIF tautomerase active site inhibitors down-regulate the expression of Class IB PI3Ks as well as leucocyte recruitment in vitro and in vivo. Finally, based on our MIF:inhibitor complex crystal structures, we hypothesize that the reduction in Class IB PI3K expression occurs because of the displacement of Pro1 towards the second loop of MIF upon inhibitor binding, which results in increased flexibility of the loop 2 and sub-optimal MIF binding to its receptors. These results will provide molecular insights for fine-tuning the biological functions of MIF.

Pub.: 14 Sep '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17