The eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF4E is highly elevated in human cancers including acute myeloid leukemia (AML). A potential anticancer agent, ribavirin, targets eIF4E activity in AML patients corresponding to clinical responses. To date, ribavirin is the only direct inhibitor of eIF4E to reach clinical trials. We showed that ribavirin acts as a competitive inhibitor of the methyl 7-guanosine (m(7)G) cap, the natural ligand of eIF4E. Here we examine the conformational changes occurring in human eIF4E upon binding the active metabolite of ribavirin, ribavirin triphosphate (RTP). Our NMR data revealed an unexpected concentration dependence on RTP affinity for eIF4E. We observed NMR spectra characteristic of tight binding at low micromolar concentrations (2-5 μM eIF4E) but much weaker affinity at more typical NMR concentrations (50- ). Comparison of chemical shift perturbation and line broadening suggest that the two eIF4E-RTP complexes differ in the precise positioning of RTP within the cap binding pocket, with the high affinity complex showing more extensive changes to the central β-sheet and dorsal surface of eIF4E, similar to m(7)G cap. The differences between high and low affinity complexes arise due to concentration dependent aggregation of eIF4E and RTP. Given the intracellular concentrations of eIF4E and RTP and the differential binding toward the W56A eIF4E mutant the high affinity complex is the most physiologically relevant. In summary, these findings demonstrate that RTP binds in the cap-binding site but also suggests new features of this pocket that should be considered in drug design efforts and reveal new insights into ligand eIF4E recognition.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.