Research ArticlePharmacology

Manipulation of receptor oligomerization as a strategy to inhibit signaling by TNF superfamily members

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Sci. Signal.  19 Aug 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 339, pp. ra80
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004948

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Abstract

Signaling by receptor activator of nuclear factor κB (RANK) in response to its ligand RANKL, which is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily of cytokines, stimulates osteoclast formation and bone resorption. Thus, this ligand-receptor pair is a therapeutic target for various disorders, such as osteoporosis and metastasis of cancer to bone. RANKL exists as a physiological homotrimer, with each monomer recognizing a single molecule of RANK or the decoy receptor osteoprotegerin (OPG), which inhibits osteoclastogenesis. We engineered a RANKL protein in which all three monomers of RANKL were encoded as a single polypeptide chain, which enabled us to independently control receptor binding at each binding interface. To generate an effective RANK inhibitor, we used an unbiased forward genetic approach to identify mutations in RANKL that had a 500-fold increased affinity for RANK but had decreased affinity for the decoy receptor OPG. Incorporating mutations that blocked receptor binding into this high-affinity RANKL variant generated a mutant RANKL that completely inhibited wild-type RANKL–induced osteoclastogenesis in vitro and bone resorption in mice. Our approach may be generalized to enable the inhibition of other TNF receptor signaling systems, which are implicated in a wide range of pathological conditions.

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