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Title: Investigating TLR-4 signalling in response to protein ligands
Author: Macleod, Charlotte Victoria
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4 is a pattern recognition receptor (PRR) that recognises the pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) lipopolysaccharide (LPS) produced by Gram-negative bacteria. LPS binds to Myeloid differentiation 2 (MD-2)/TLR-4 heterodimers, driving their dimerisation and inducing a conformational change of the intracellular TLR-4 toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) domains. The adaptor protein Myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88)-adaptor-like (Mal)/TIR domain-containing adaptor protein (TIRAP) then binds to the TIR domains of TLR-4 and acts as a bridge for MyD88 which goes on to form the myddosome, a large protein complex of six to eight MyD88 molecules and four Interleukin-1 receptor- associated kinase (IRAK) 4 and four IRAK1/2 molecules. This triggers a signalling cascade which results in nuclear factor (NF)-κB transcription factor activation and production of pro-inflammatory effector molecules such as the cytokine Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF)-α. Upon activation TLR-4 is also endocytosed where it interacts with a second set of adaptor proteins TIR-domain-containing adaptor- inducing interferon (IFN)-β (TRIF)-related adaptor molecule (TRAM) and TRIF to initiate the type I IFN response. How TLR-4 dimerisation results in the formation of the oligomeric myddosome is not fully understood, but it is possible that the stoichiometry of Mal/TIRAP may be important in the formation of this protein complex. The aim of my thesis was to determine the stoichiometry of Mal/TIRAP at the plasma membrane of immortalised bone marrow derived macrophages (iBMDMs) and whether this stoichiometry changes upon stimulation with different TLR-4 ligands. To investigate Mal/TIRAP stoichiometry I first developed a viral transduction experimental cell model to visualise fluorescently labelled Mal/TIRAP. Mal/TIRAP-/- iBMDMs were lentivirally transduced with a Mal/TIRAPHALO construct. The halotag was fluorescently labelled then the cells were stimulated with TLR-4 ligands, such as LPS, fixed at different time points, then imaged. Total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy was used to image the plasma membrane and photobleaching experiments performed to determine Mal/TIRAP stoichiometry. I developed a computer-based analysis pipeline to analyse the resulting photobleaching data. Under resting conditions, Mal/TIRAP is present at the plasma membrane in clusters of approximately ten Mal/TIRAP molecules per cluster. After five minutes of stimulation with 10 ng/ml LPS Mal/TIRAP redistributes into cluster sizes of approximately six, twelve and much larger. After ten and fifteen minutes stimulation with 10 ng/ml LPS the clusters return to the resting size of approximately ten Mal/TIRAP molecules per cluster with a few much larger clusters remaining present. This confirms the rapid time frame within which TLR-4 signalling occurs at the plasma membrane and is consistent with myddosome stoichiometry of six MyD88 molecules or proposed super myddosomes of twelve MyD88 molecules. The computer-based analysis pipeline developed can be used to analyse any protein of interest at the plasma membrane. Protein ligands have also been found to activate TLR-4; for example allergens, such as Fel d 1 and Der p 2, as well as endogenous damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), such as extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, for example fragments of fibronectin and tenascin-C. The mechanism by which these proteins interact with TLR-4 and induce signalling is unclear. Proteins from the ECM (fragments FNIII1c, FNIII13-14, FNIII9-E and FNIII9-E-14 from fibronectin and the fibrinogen-like globe (FBG) domain of tenascin-C) were tested using a transient transfection assay in HEK293 cells and shown to activate TLR-4. In conclusion, I have developed new tools and methodology to investigate how TLR-4 signals in response to LPS and DAMPs in living cells. Whether DAMP- activated TLR-4 forms similar signalling complexes to those induced by LPS will form part of a future study.
Supervisor: Bryant, Clare Elizabeth Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: TLR-4 ; Mal ; TIRAP ; TIRF ; Fibronectin ; Tenascin-C ; Stoichiometry ; Microscopy ; Innate signalling ; Photobleaching