Mechanism of disease and therapeutic rescue of Dok7 congenital myasthenia
Congenital myasthenia (CM) is a devastating neuromuscular disease, and mutations in DOK7, an adaptor protein that is crucial for forming and maintaining neuromuscular synapses, are a major cause of CM1,2. The most common disease-causing mutation (DOK71124_1127 dup) truncates DOK7 and leads to the loss of two tyrosine residues that are phosphorylated and recruit CRK proteins, which are important for anchoring acetylcholine receptors at synapses. Here we describe a mouse model of this common form of CM (Dok7CM mice) and a mouse with point mutations in the two tyrosine residues (Dok72YF). We show that Dok7CM mice had severe deficits in neuromuscular synapse formation that caused neonatal lethality. Unexpectedly, these deficits were due to a severe deficiency in phosphorylation and activation of muscle-specific kinase (MUSK) rather than a deficiency in DOK7 tyrosine phosphorylation. We developed agonist antibodies against MUSK and show that these antibodies restored neuromuscular synapse formation and prevented neonatal lethality and late-onset disease in Dok7CM mice. These findings identify an unexpected cause for disease and a potential therapy for both DOK7 CM and other forms of CM caused by mutations in AGRIN, LRP4 or MUSK, and illustrate the potential of targeted therapy to rescue congenital lethality.
Identification of the nucleotide-free state as a therapeutic vulnerability for inhibition of selected oncogenic RAS mutants
RAS guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) are mutated in nearly 20% of human tumors, making them an attractive therapeutic target. Following our discovery that nucleotide-free RAS (apo RAS) regulates cell signaling, we selectively target this state as an approach to inhibit RAS function. Here, we describe the R15 monobody that exclusively binds the apo state of all three RAS isoforms inÂ vitro, regardless of the mutation status, and captures RAS in the apo state in cells. R15 inhibits the signaling and transforming activity of a subset of RAS mutants with elevated intrinsic nucleotide exchange rates (i.e., fast exchange mutants). Intracellular expression of R15 reduces the tumor-forming capacity of cancer cell lines driven by select RAS mutants and KRAS(G12D)-mutant patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). Thus, our approach establishes an opportunity to selectively inhibit a subset of RAS mutants by targeting the apo state with drug-like molecules.
High-valency anti-CD99 antibodies toward the treatment of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive form of leukemia that currently requires intensive chemotherapy. While childhood T-ALL is associated with high cure rates, adult T-ALL is not, and both are associated with significant short- and long-term morbidities. Thus, less toxic and effective strategies to treat T-ALL are needed. CD99 is overexpressed on T-ALL blasts at diagnosis and at relapse. Although targeting CD99 with cytotoxic antibodies has been proposed, the molecular features required for their activity are undefined. We identified human antibodies that selectively bound to the extracellular domain human CD99 and the most potent clone, 10A1, shared an epitope with a previously described cytotoxic IgM antibody. We engineered clone 10A1 in bivalent, trivalent, tetravalent, and dodecavalent formats. Increasing the antibody valency beyond two had no effects on binding to T-ALL cells. In contrast, a valency of â‰¥3 was required for cytotoxicity, suggesting a mechanism of action in which an antibody clusters â‰¥3 CD99 molecules to induce cytotoxicity. We developed a human IgG-based tetravalent version of 10A1 that exhibited cytotoxic activity to T-ALL cells but not to healthy peripheral blood cells. The crystal structure of the 10A1 Fab in complex with a CD99 fragment revealed that the antibody primarily recognizes a proline-rich motif (PRM) of CD99 in a manner reminiscent of SH3-PRM interactions. This work further validates CD99 as a promising therapeutic target in T-ALL and defines a pathway toward the development of a selective therapy against T-ALL.
Selective and noncovalent targeting of RAS mutants for inhibition and degradation
Activating mutants of RAS are commonly found in human cancers, but to date selective targeting of RAS in the clinic has been limited to KRAS(G12C) through covalent inhibitors. Here, we report a monobody, termed 12VC1, that recognizes the active state of both KRAS(G12V) and KRAS(G12C) up to 400-times more tightly than wild-type KRAS. The crystal structures reveal that 12VC1 recognizes the mutations through a shallow pocket, and 12VC1 competes against RAS-effector interaction. When expressed intracellularly, 12VC1 potently inhibits ERK activation and the proliferation of RAS-driven cancer cell lines in vitro and in mouse xenograft models. 12VC1 fused to VHL selectively degrades the KRAS mutants and provides more extended suppression of mutant RAS activity than inhibition by 12VC1 alone. These results demonstrate the feasibility of selective targeting and degradation of KRAS mutants in the active state with noncovalent reagents and provide a starting point for designing noncovalent therapeutics against oncogenic RAS mutants.
The Î³Î´ IEL effector API5 masks genetic susceptibility to Paneth cell death
Loss of Paneth cells and their antimicrobial granules compromises the intestinal epithelial barrier and is associated with Crohn's disease, a major type of inflammatory bowel disease1-7. Non-classical lymphoid cells, broadly referred to as intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs), intercalate the intestinal epithelium8,9. This anatomical position has implicated them as first-line defenders in resistance to infections, but their role in inflammatory disease pathogenesis requires clarification. The identification of mediators that coordinate crosstalk between specific IEL and epithelial subsets could provide insight into intestinal barrier mechanisms in health and disease. Here we show that the subset of IELs that express Î³ and Î´ T cell receptor subunits (Î³Î´ IELs) promotes the viability of Paneth cells deficient in the Crohn's disease susceptibility gene ATG16L1. Using an ex vivo lymphocyte-epithelium co-culture system, we identified apoptosis inhibitor 5 (API5) as a Paneth cell-protective factor secreted by Î³Î´ IELs. In the Atg16l1-mutant mouse model, viral infection induced a loss of Paneth cells and enhanced susceptibility to intestinal injury by inhibiting the secretion of API5 from Î³Î´ IELs. Therapeutic administration of recombinant API5 protected Paneth cells in vivo in mice and ex vivo in human organoids with the ATG16L1 risk allele. Thus, we identify API5 as a protective Î³Î´ IEL effector that masks genetic susceptibility to Paneth cell death.
Inhibition of RAS-driven signaling and tumorigenesis with a pan-RAS monobody targeting the Switch I/II pocket
RAS mutants are major therapeutic targets in oncology with few efficacious direct inhibitors available. The identification of a shallow pocket near the Switch II region on RAS has led to the development of small-molecule drugs that target this site and inhibit KRAS(G12C) and KRAS(G12D). To discover other regions on RAS that may be targeted for inhibition, we have employed small synthetic binding proteins termed monobodies that have a strong propensity to bind to functional sites on a target protein. Here, we report a pan-RAS monobody, termed JAM20, that bound to all RAS isoforms with nanomolar affinity and demonstrated limited nucleotide-state specificity. Upon intracellular expression, JAM20 potently inhibited signaling mediated by all RAS isoforms and reduced oncogenic RAS-mediated tumorigenesis inÂ vivo. NMR and mutation analysis determined that JAM20 bound to a pocket between Switch I and II, which is similarly targeted by low-affinity, small-molecule inhibitors, such as BI-2852, whose inÂ vivo efficacy has not been demonstrated. Furthermore, JAM20 directly competed with both the RAF(RBD) and BI-2852. These results provide direct validation of targeting the Switch I/II pocket for inhibiting RAS-driven tumorigenesis. More generally, these results demonstrate the utility of tool biologics as probes for discovering and validating druggable sites on challenging targets.
Atomic structure of the eukaryotic intramembrane RAS methyltransferase ICMT
The maturation of RAS GTPases and approximately 200 other cellular CAAX proteins involves three enzymatic steps: addition of a farnesyl or geranylgeranyl prenyl lipid to the cysteine (C) in the C-terminal CAAX motif, proteolytic cleavage of the AAX residues and methylation of the exposed prenylcysteine residue at its terminal carboxylate. This final step is catalysed by isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (ICMT), a eukaryote-specific integral membrane enzyme that resides in the endoplasmic reticulum. ICMT is the only cellular enzyme that is known to methylate prenylcysteine substrates; methylation is important for the biological functions of these substrates, such as the membrane localization and subsequent activity of RAS, prelamin A and RAB. Inhibition of ICMT has potential for combating progeria and cancer. Here we present an X-ray structure of ICMT, in complex with its cofactor, an ordered lipid molecule and a monobody inhibitor, at 2.3â€‰Ã… resolution. The active site spans cytosolic and membrane-exposed regions, indicating distinct entry routes for the cytosolic methyl donor, S-adenosyl-l-methionine, and for prenylcysteine substrates, which are associated with the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. The structure suggests how ICMT overcomes the topographical challenge and unfavourable energetics of bringing two reactants that have different cellular localizations together in a membrane environment-a relatively uncharacterized but defining feature of many integral membrane enzymes.
Inhibition of RAS function through targeting an allosteric regulatory site
RAS GTPases are important mediators of oncogenesis in humans. However, pharmacological inhibition of RAS has proved challenging. Here we describe a functionally critical region, located outside the effector lobe of RAS, that can be targeted for inhibition. We developed NS1, a synthetic binding protein (monobody) that bound with high affinity to both GTP- and GDP-bound states of H-RAS and K-RAS but not N-RAS. NS1 potently inhibited growth factor signaling and oncogenic H-RAS- and K-RAS-mediated signaling and transformation but did not block oncogenic N-RAS, BRAF or MEK1. NS1 bound the alpha4-beta6-alpha5 region of RAS, which disrupted RAS dimerization and nanoclustering and led to blocking of CRAF-BRAF heterodimerization and activation. These results establish the importance of the alpha4-beta6-alpha5 interface in RAS-mediated signaling and define a previously unrecognized site in RAS for inhibiting RAS function.
Phosphorylation-dependent pseudokinase domain dimerization drives full-length MLKL oligomerization
The necroptosis pathway is a lytic, pro-inflammatory mode of cell death that is widely implicated in human disease, including renal, pulmonary, gut and skin inflammatory pathologies. The precise mechanism of the terminal steps in the pathway, where the RIPK3 kinase phosphorylates and triggers a conformation change and oligomerization of the terminal pathway effector, MLKL, are only emerging. Here, we structurally identify RIPK3-mediated phosphorylation of the human MLKL activation loop as a cue for MLKL pseudokinase domain dimerization. MLKL pseudokinase domain dimerization subsequently drives formation of elongated homotetramers. Negative stain electron microscopy and modelling support nucleation of the MLKL tetramer assembly by a central coiled coil formed by the extended, ~80 Å brace helix that connects the pseudokinase and executioner four-helix bundle domains. Mutational data assert MLKL tetramerization as an essential prerequisite step to enable the release and reorganization of four-helix bundle domains for membrane permeabilization and cell death.
Discrete immune response signature to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination versus infection
Both SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination elicit potent immune responses. A number of studies have described immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, beyond antibody production, immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we performed multimodal single-cell sequencing on peripheral blood of patients with acute COVID-19 and healthy volunteers before and after receiving the SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine to compare the immune responses elicited by the virus and by this vaccine. Phenotypic and transcriptional profiling of immune cells, coupled with reconstruction of the B and T cell antigen receptor rearrangement of individual lymphocytes, enabled us to characterize and compare the host responses to the virus and to defined viral antigens. While both infection and vaccination induced robust innate and adaptive immune responses, our analysis revealed significant qualitative differences between the two types of immune challenges. In COVID-19 patients, immune responses were characterized by a highly augmented interferon response which was largely absent in vaccine recipients. Increased interferon signaling likely contributed to the observed dramatic upregulation of cytotoxic genes in the peripheral T cells and innate-like lymphocytes in patients but not in immunized subjects. Analysis of B and T cell receptor repertoires revealed that while the majority of clonal B and T cells in COVID-19 patients were effector cells, in vaccine recipients clonally expanded cells were primarily circulating memory cells. Importantly, the divergence in immune subsets engaged, the transcriptional differences in key immune populations, and the differences in maturation of adaptive immune cells revealed by our analysis have far-ranging implications for immunity to this novel pathogen.