Spatial requirements for ITAM signaling in an intracellular natural killer cell model membrane

Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj. 2022 Nov;1866(11):130221. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2022.130221. Epub 2022 Aug 3.


FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes, upon stimulation by antibodies, cluster to initiate intracellular signaling and activate natural killer (NK) cells. Intracellular signaling involves Lck phosphorylation of ITAMs of each monomer of a FcεRIγ homodimer in a FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complex and subsequent binding of two phosphotyrosines (pY) in tandem by a Syk family kinase. However, how FcR clustering triggers ITAM signaling is not resolved. Molecular modeling and dynamics (MD) simulations are applied to generate ensembles of structures of the FcγRIIIa and FcεRIγ homodimeric cytoplasmic tails of FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes based on the transmembrane helices and cytoplasmic tails spaced 120, 80, and 50 Å apart to model different extents of clustering. Site-identification by ligand competitive saturation method with Monte Carlo sampling (SILCS-MC) is used to model how Lck could phosphorylate a diversity of ITAM conformations. At 80 Å separation between FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes, Lck can perform multiple phosphorylations on individual and multiple ITAMs across complexes, including potential sequential phosphorylation events. Syk may then potentially bind the two pYs within a single ITAM in tandem in isolated FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes, as observed in CD3ε and ζ chains of T cell receptors by the Syk family kinase ZAP-70. In addition, at 50 Å separation between complexes, unique to natural killer cells over T cells, Syk could potentially bind in tandem to pYs in different ITAMs across FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes. Thus, we predict that an ensemble of spatial orientations of the ITAMS of FcγRIIIa-FcεRIγ complexes that occur upon clustering lead to ITAM phosphorylation by Lck and subsequent Syk activity thereby facilitating downstream signaling.

Keywords: Fc receptors; ITAMs; Immune receptors; Immunotherapy; SILCS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Syk Kinase


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Syk Kinase