CXCL14, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 14, is a novel highly conserved chemokine with unique features. Despite exhibiting the typical chemokine fold, it has a very short N-terminus of just two amino acid residues responsible for chemokine receptor activation. CXCL14 actively participates in homeostatic immune surveillance of skin and mucosae, is linked to metabolic disorders and fibrotic lung diseases and possesses strong anti-angiogenic properties in early tumor development. In this work, we investigated the interaction of CXCL14 with various glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, microscale thermophoresis, analytical heparin (HE) affinity chromatography and in silico approaches to understand the molecular basis of GAG-binding. We observed different GAG-binding modes specific for the GAG type used in the study. In particular, the CXCL14 epitope for HE suggests a binding pose distinguishable from the ones of the other GAGs investigated (hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate-A/C, -D, dermatan sulfate). This observation is also supported by computational methods that included molecular docking, molecular dynamics and free energy calculations. Based on our results, we suggest that distinct GAG sulfation patterns confer specificity beyond simple electrostatic interactions usually considered to represent the driving forces in protein-GAG interactions. The CXCL14-GAG system represents a promising approach to investigate the specificity of GAG-protein interactions, which represents an important topic for developing the rational approaches to novel strategies in regenerative medicine.
Keywords: CXCL14; glycosaminoglycan binding specificity; molecular modeling; nuclear magnetic resonance; protein–glycosaminoglycan interactions.
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