Background: The rheumatoid arthritis (RA) shared epitope (SE), a major risk factor for severe disease, is a five amino acid motif in the third allelic hypervariable region of the HLA-DRbeta chain. The molecular mechanisms by which the SE affects susceptibility to--and severity of--RA are unknown. We have recently demonstrated that the SE acts as a ligand that interacts with cell surface calreticulin (CRT) and activates innate immune signaling. In order to better understand the molecular basis of SE-RA association, here we have undertaken to map the SE binding site on CRT.
Principal findings: Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) experiments with domain deletion mutants suggested that the SE binding site is located in the P-domain of CRT. The role of this domain as a SE-binding region was further confirmed by a sulfosuccinimidyl-2-[6-(biotinamido)-2-(p-azido-benzamido) hexanoamido] ethyl-1,3-dithiopropionate (sulfo-SBED) photoactive cross-linking method. In silico analysis of docking interactions between a conformationally intact SE ligand and the CRT P-domain predicted the region within amino acid residues 217-224 as a potential SE binding site. Site-directed mutagenesis demonstrated involvement of residues Glu(217) and Glu(223)--and to a lesser extent residue Asp(220)--in cell-free SPR-based binding and signal transduction assays.
Significance: We have characterized here the molecular basis of a novel ligand-receptor interaction between the SE and CRT. The interaction represents a structurally and functionally well-defined example of cross talk between the adaptive and innate immune systems that could advance our understanding of the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.