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Deciphering CXCR4 and ACKR3 interactomes reveals an influence of ACKR3 upon Gap junctional intercellular communication

  • Fumagalli, Amos
Publication Date
Nov 22, 2018
Kaleidoscope Open Archive
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The Atypical Chemokine Receptor 3 (ACKR3) and CXCR4 are two G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) belonging to the CXC chemokine receptor family. Both receptors are activated upon CXCL12 binding and are over-expressed in various tumours, including glioma, where they have been found to promote proliferation and invasive behaviours. Upon CXCL12 binding, CXCR4 activates canonical GPCR signalling pathways involving Gαi protein and β-arrestins. In addition, CXCR4 was found to interact with several proteins able to modify its signalling, trafficking and localization. In contrast, the cellular pathways underlying ACKR3-dependent effects remain poorly characterized. Several reports show that ACKR3 engages β-arrestin-dependent signalling pathways, but its coupling to G proteins is restricted to either specific cellular populations, including astrocytes, or occurs indirectly via its interaction with CXCR4. ACKR3 also associates with the epidermal growth factor receptor to promote proliferation of tumour cells in an agonist-independent manner. These examples suggest that the extensive characterization of ACKR3 and CXCR4 interactomes might be a key step in understanding or clarifying their roles in physiological and pathological contexts. This thesis addressed this issue employing an affinity purification coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry proteomic strategy that identified 19 and 151 potential protein partners of CXCR4 and ACKR3 transiently expressed in HEK-293T cells, respectively. Amongst ACKR3 interacting proteins identified, we paid particular attention on the gap junction protein Connexin-43 (Cx43), in line with its overlapping roles with the receptor in the control of leukocyte entry into the brain, interneuron migration and glioma progression. Western blotting and BRET confirmed the specific association of Cx43 with ACKR3 compared to CXCR4. Likewise, Cx43 is co-localized with ACKR3 but not CXCR4 in glioma initiating cell lines, and ACKR3 and Cx43 are co-expressed in astrocytes of the sub-ventricular zone and surrounding blood vessels in adult mouse brain, suggesting that both proteins form a complex in authentic cell or tissue contexts. Further functional studies showed that ACKR3 influences Cx43 trafficking and functionality at multiple levels. Transient expression of ACKR3 in HEK-293T cells to mimic ACKR3 overexpression detected in several cancer types, induces Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication (GJIC) inhibition in an agonist-independent manner. In addition, agonist stimulation of endogenously expressed ACKR3 in primary cultured astrocytes inhibits Cx43-mediated GJIC through a mechanism that requires activation of Gαi protein, and dynamin- and β-arrestin2-dependent Cx43 internalisation. Therefore, this thesis work provides the first functional link between the CXCL11/CXCL12/ACKR3 axis and gap junctions that might underlie their critical role in glioma progression.

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