Interleukin (IL) 11 activates multiple intracellular signaling pathways by forming a complex with its cell surface α-receptor, IL-11Rα, and the β-subunit receptor, gp130. Dysregulated IL-11 signaling has been implicated in several diseases, including some cancers and fibrosis. Mutations in IL-11Rα that reduce signaling are also associated with hereditary cranial malformations. Here we present the first crystal structure of the extracellular domains of human IL-11Rα and a structure of human IL-11 that reveals previously unresolved detail. Disease-associated mutations in IL-11Rα are generally distal to putative ligand-binding sites. Molecular dynamics simulations showed that specific mutations destabilize IL-11Rα and may have indirect effects on the cytokine-binding region. We show that IL-11 and IL-11Rα form a 1:1 complex with nanomolar affinity and present a model of the complex. Our results suggest that the thermodynamic and structural mechanisms of complex formation between IL-11 and IL-11Rα differ substantially from those previously reported for similar cytokines. This work reveals key determinants of the engagement of IL-11 by IL-11Rα that may be exploited in the development of strategies to modulate formation of the IL-11-IL-11Rα complex.
Keywords: IL6 family cytokine; cancer; cytokine; fibrosis; gp130; inflammation; interleukin; receptor structure-function; signaling; structural biology.
© 2020 Metcalfe et al.