The atypical chemokine receptor ACKR3/CXCR7 plays crucial roles in numerous physiological processes but also in viral infection and cancer. ACKR3 shows strong propensity for activation and, unlike classical chemokine receptors, can respond to chemokines from both the CXC and CC families as well as to the endogenous peptides BAM22 and adrenomedullin. Moreover, despite belonging to the G protein coupled receptor family, its function appears to be mainly dependent on β-arrestin. ACKR3 has also been shown to continuously cycle between the plasma membrane and the endosomal compartments, suggesting a possible role as a scavenging receptor. So far, the molecular basis accounting for these atypical binding and signalling properties remains elusive. Noteworthy, ACKR3 extracellular domains bear three disulphide bridges. Two of them lie on top of the two main binding subpockets and are conserved among chemokine receptors, and one, specific to ACKR3, forms an intra-N terminus four-residue-loop of so far unknown function. Here, by mutational and functional studies, we examined the impact of the different disulphide bridges for ACKR3 folding, ligand binding and activation. We showed that, in contrast to most classical chemokine receptors, none of the extracellular disulphide bridges was essential for ACKR3 function. However, the disruption of the unique ACKR3 N-terminal loop drastically reduced the binding of CC chemokines whereas it only had a mild impact on CXC chemokine binding. Mutagenesis also uncovered that chemokine and endogenous non-chemokine ligands interact and activate ACKR3 according to distinct binding modes characterized by different transmembrane domain subpocket occupancy and N-terminal loop contribution, with BAM22 mimicking the binding mode of CC chemokine N terminus.
- Chemokine receptor