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The crystal structure of human interferon β at 2.2-Å resolution

The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
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  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology


Type I interferons (IFNs) are helical cytokines that have diverse biological activities despite the fact that they appear to interact with the same receptor system. To achieve a better understanding of the structural basis for the different activities of α and β IFNs, we have determined the crystal structure of glycosylated human IFN-β at 2.2-Å resolution by molecular replacement. The molecule adopts a fold similar to that of the previously determined structures of murine IFN-β and human IFN-α2b but displays several distinct structural features. Like human IFN-α2b, human IFN-β contains a zinc-binding site at the interface of the two molecules in the asymmetric unit, raising the question of functional relevance for IFN-β dimers. However, unlike the human IFN-α2b dimer, in which homologous surfaces form the interface, human IFN-β dimerizes with contact surfaces from opposite sides of the molecule. The relevance of the structure to the effects of point mutations in IFN-β at specific exposed residues is discussed. A potential role of ligand–ligand interactions in the conformational assembly of IFN receptor components is discussed.

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