Molecular mechanisms of heparin-induced modulation of human interleukin 12 bioactivity

by Nguyen, Khue G.; Gillam, Francis B.; Hopkins, Jared J.; Jayanthi, Srinivas; Gundampati, Ravi Kumar; Su, Guowei; Bear, Jenifer; Pilkington, Guy R.; Jalah, Rashmi; Felber, Barbara K.; Liu, Jian; Thallapuranam, Suresh Kumar; Zaharoff, David A.

Human interleukin-12 (hIL-12) is a heparin-binding cytokine whose activity was previously shown to be enhanced by heparin and other sulfated glycosaminoglycans. The current study investigated the mechanisms by which heparin increases hIL-12 activity. Using multiple human cell types, including natural killer cells, an IL-12 indicator cell line, and primary peripheral blood mononuclear and T cells, along with bioactivity, flow cytometry, and isothermal titration calorimetry assays, we found that heparin-dependent modulation of hIL-12 function correlates with several of heparin's biophysical characteristics, including chain length, sulfation level, and concentration. Specifically, only heparin molecules longer than eight saccharide units enhanced hIL-12 activity. Furthermore, heparin molecules with three sulfate groups per disaccharide unit outperformed heparin molecules with one or two sulfate groups per disaccharide unit in terms of enhanced hIL-12 binding and activity. Heparin also significantly reduced the EC50 value of hIL-12 by up to 11.8-fold, depending on the responding cell type. Cytokine-profiling analyses revealed that heparin affected the level, but not the type, of cytokines produced by lymphocytes in response to hIL-12. Interestingly, although murine IL-12 also binds heparin, heparin did not enhance its activity. Using the gathered data, we propose a model of hIL-12 stabilization in which heparin serves as a co-receptor enhancing the interaction between heterodimeric hIL-12 and its receptor subunits. The results of this study provide a foundation for further investigation of heparin's interactions with IL-12 family cytokines and for the use of heparin as an immunomodulatory agent.

Journal of Biological Chemistry
Start Page
1083-351X; 0021-9258