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Interleukin-2 druggability is modulated by global conformational transitions controlled by a helical capping switch.

  • Author(s): De Paula, Viviane S;
  • Jude, Kevin M;
  • Nerli, Santrupti;
  • Glassman, Caleb R;
  • Garcia, K Christopher;
  • Sgourakis, Nikolaos G
  • et al.

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a small α-helical cytokine that regulates immune cell homeostasis through its recruitment to a high-affinity heterotrimeric receptor complex (IL-2Rα/IL-2Rβ/γc). IL-2 has been shown to have therapeutic efficacy for immune diseases by preferentially expanding distinct T cell compartments, and several regulatory T cell (Treg)-biasing anti-IL-2 antibodies have been developed for combination therapies. The conformational plasticity of IL-2 plays an important role in its biological actions by modulating the strength of receptor and drug interactions. Through an NMR analysis of milliseconds-timescale dynamics of free mouse IL-2 (mIL-2), we identify a global transition to a sparse conformation which is regulated by an α-helical capping "switch" at the loop between the A and B helices (AB loop). Binding to either an anti-mouse IL-2 monoclonal antibody (mAb) or a small molecule inhibitor near the loop induces a measurable response at the core of the structure, while locking the switch to a single conformation through a designed point mutation leads to a global quenching of core dynamics accompanied by a pronounced effect in mAb binding. By elucidating key details of the long-range allosteric communication between the receptor binding surfaces and the core of the IL-2 structure, our results offer a direct blueprint for designing precision therapeutics targeting a continuum of conformational states.

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