lmmunoregulatory cytokines engage transmembrane signaling receptors in order to mediate a wide range of functions including leukocyte proliferation, differentiation, and expansion. Most immunoregulatory cytokines possess both redundant and distinct activities that are critical to normal immune homeostasis, but this functional pleiotropy presents a major problem for the effective, targeted use of these cytokines as drugs. Cytokine pleiotropy is a consequence of a small number of shared receptors, such as common gamma chain and gp130, engaging many different cytokines, which then activate overlapping intracellular signaling pathways through a limited set of JAK and STAT proteins. During the prior term of this award, we gained an appreciation for the extracellular structural architectures of a spectrum of different cytokine complexes with shared receptors, including those of IL-1, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-13, IL-17, IL-23, and IFN, which exhibited an astonishing diversity of heterodimeric signaling geometries. In this renewal application, we focus our studies on the pleiotropic cytokines IL-2 and IL-15, to ask how extracellular structures of the receptor-cytokine complexes influence transmembrane signaling, intracellular activation of JAK and STAT, and subsequent in vivo function. We wish to determine if the binding chemistry and geometry of the IL-2 and IL-15 receptor complex subunits plays a role in modulating signaling specificity, and whether tuning signaling through structure-based cytokine engineering of receptor interactions is a viable means of developing novel immunotherapeutics with enhanced efficacy, cell subset preferences, and reduced toxicity. The overall goals of this highly collaborative proposal are:
Aim 1 - to determine the biophysical basis for the functional redundancy and specificity exhibited by two natural surrogate ye cytokines, IL-2 and IL-15, that act through shared signaling receptors (IL-2Rp and Ye) but private alpha-receptors;
Aim 2 - to utilize structure-based protein engineering to attempt to create IL-2 variants with diverse signaling properties and T cell subset preferences, that may be more effective immunotherapeutics as assessed by collaborators in a variety of in vivo disease models;
and Aim 3 - to determine the mechanistic basis of antibody potentiation of IL-2 activity towards distinct T cell subsets, as well as discover new potentiating antibodies that could remodel the conformation of wild-type IL-2 and alter its biological activity. Finally, in Aim 4, we continue to pursue structural information on how cytokine receptor intracellular segments engage Janus Kinase (JAK) molecules, by reconstituting an entire full-length cytokine receptor transmembrane complex, bound to both cytokine and intracellular JAK for imaging by crystallography and electron microscopy. In this fashion, by combining structure (X-ray crystallography, Electron Microscopy, and NMR), protein engineering, signaling, and in vivo studies, we propose to obtain a complete molecular snapshot of shared cytokine receotor sianalina from the initial enaaaement of liaand throuah the activation of intracellular sianalini:i cascades.

Public Health Relevance

Cytokines are potent mediators of the immune system and they hold promise as therapeutics to treat immune disease and cancer. However, their actions need to be harnessed and controlled in order to enhance the desired effects and minimize undesired effects. This proposal uses protein engineering based on fundamental mechanisms of cytokine-receptor interactions to develop new strategies to control the actions of powerful immune cytokines.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (R37)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
Program Officer
Singleton, Kentner L
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Stanford University
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Spangler, Jamie B; Trotta, Eleonora; Tomala, Jakub et al. (2018) Engineering a Single-Agent Cytokine/Antibody Fusion That Selectively Expands Regulatory T Cells for Autoimmune Disease Therapy. J Immunol 201:2094-2106
Sockolosky, Jonathan T; Trotta, Eleonora; Parisi, Giulia et al. (2018) Selective targeting of engineered T cells using orthogonal IL-2 cytokine-receptor complexes. Science 359:1037-1042
Mendoza, Juan L; Schneider, William M; Hoffmann, Hans-Heinrich et al. (2017) The IFN-?-IFN-?R1-IL-10R? Complex Reveals Structural Features Underlying Type III IFN Functional Plasticity. Immunity 46:379-392
Ho, Chia Chi M; Chhabra, Akanksha; Starkl, Philipp et al. (2017) Decoupling the Functional Pleiotropy of Stem Cell Factor by Tuning c-Kit Signaling. Cell 168:1041-1052.e18
Kim, Ah Ram; Ulirsch, Jacob C; Wilmes, Stephan et al. (2017) Functional Selectivity in Cytokine Signaling Revealed Through a Pathogenic EPO Mutation. Cell 168:1053-1064.e15
Spangler, Jamie B; Moraga, Ignacio; Mendoza, Juan L et al. (2015) Insights into cytokine-receptor interactions from cytokine engineering. Annu Rev Immunol 33:139-67
Moraga, Ignacio; Richter, David; Wilmes, Stephan et al. (2015) Instructive roles for cytokine-receptor binding parameters in determining signaling and functional potency. Sci Signal 8:ra114
Mitra, Suman; Ring, Aaron M; Amarnath, Shoba et al. (2015) Interleukin-2 activity can be fine tuned with engineered receptor signaling clamps. Immunity 42:826-38
Spangler, Jamie B; Tomala, Jakub; Luca, Vincent C et al. (2015) Antibodies to Interleukin-2 Elicit Selective T Cell Subset Potentiation through Distinct Conformational Mechanisms. Immunity 42:815-25
Moraga, Ignacio; Wernig, Gerlinde; Wilmes, Stephan et al. (2015) Tuning cytokine receptor signaling by re-orienting dimer geometry with surrogate ligands. Cell 160:1196-208

Showing the most recent 10 out of 23 publications