Joseph PR, Rajarathnam K. Protein Sci. 2015 Jan;24(1):81-92. doi: 10.1002/pro.2590. PMID: 25327289
Chemokine CXCL8 and its receptor CXCR1 are key mediators in combating infection and have also been implicated in the pathophysiology of various diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. CXCL8 exists as monomers and dimers but monomer alone binds CXCR1 with high affinity. CXCL8 function involves binding two distinct CXCR1 sites – the N-terminal domain (Site-I) and the extracellular/transmembrane domain (Site-II). Therefore, higher monomer affinity could be due to stronger binding at Site-I or Site-II or both. We have now characterized the binding of a human CXCR1 N-terminal domain peptide (hCXCR1Ndp) to WT CXCL8 under conditions where it exists as both monomers and dimers. We show that the WT monomer binds the CXCR1 N-domain with much higher affinity and that binding is coupled to dimer dissociation. We also characterized the binding of two CXCL8 monomer variants and a trapped dimer to two different hCXCR1Ndp constructs, and observe that the monomer binds with ∼10- to 100-fold higher affinity than the dimer. Our studies also show that the binding constants of monomer and dimer to the receptor peptides, and the dimer dissociation constant, can vary significantly as a function of pH and buffer, and so the ability to observe WT monomer peaks is critically dependent on NMR experimental conditions. We conclude that the monomer is the high affinity CXCR1 agonist, that Site-I interactions play a dominant role in determining monomer vs. dimer affinity, and that the dimer plays an indirect role in regulating monomer function.