Chemokine CXCL7 heterodimers: Structural insights, CXCR2 receptor function, and glycosaminoglycan interactions

Aaron J. Brown, Prem Raj B. Joseph, Kirti V. Sawant, Krishna Rajarathnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Chemokines mediate diverse fundamental biological processes, including combating infection. Multiple chemokines are expressed at the site of infection; thus chemokine synergy by heterodimer formation may play a role in determining function. Chemokine function involves interactions with G-protein-coupled receptors and sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAG). However, very little is known regarding heterodimer structural features and receptor and GAG interactions. Solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and molecular dynamics characterization of platelet-derived chemokine CXCL7 heterodimerization with chemokines CXCL1, CXCL4, and CXCL8 indicated that packing interactions promote CXCL7-CXCL1 and CXCL7-CXCL4 heterodimers, and electrostatic repulsive interactions disfavor the CXCL7-CXCL8 heterodimer. As characterizing the native heterodimer is challenging due to interference from monomers and homodimers, we engineered a “trapped” disulfide-linked CXCL7-CXCL1 heterodimer. NMR and modeling studies indicated that GAG heparin binding to the heterodimer is distinctly different from the CXCL7 monomer and that the GAG-bound heterodimer is unlikely to bind the receptor. Interestingly, the trapped heterodimer was highly active in a Ca2+ release assay. These data collectively suggest that GAG interactions play a prominent role in determining heterodimer function in vivo. Further, this study provides proof-of-concept that the disulfide trapping strategy can serve as a valuable tool for characterizing the structural and functional features of a chemokine heterodimer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number748
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • CXCL7
  • CXCR2
  • Chemokine
  • Glycosaminoglycan
  • Heparin
  • Heterodimer
  • NMR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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