Crystal structure of the human 4-1BB/4-1BBL complex.J Biol Chem. 2018 06 22; 293(25):9880-9891.JB
4-1BBL is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily and is the ligand for the TNFR superfamily receptor, 4-1BB. 4-1BB plays an immunomodulatory role in T cells and NK cells, and agonists of this receptor have garnered strong attention as potential immunotherapy agents. Broadly speaking, the structural features of TNF superfamily members, their receptors, and ligand-receptor complexes are similar. However, a published crystal structure of human 4-1BBL suggests that it may be unique in this regard, exhibiting a three-bladed propeller-like trimer assembly that is distinctly different from that observed in other family members. This unusual structure also suggests that the human 4-1BB/4-1BBL complex may be structurally unique within the TNF/TNFR superfamily, but to date no structural data have been reported. Here we report the crystal structure of the human 4-1BB/4-1BBL complex at 2.4-Å resolution. In this structure, 4-1BBL does not adopt the unusual trimer assembly previously reported, but instead forms a canonical bell-shaped trimer typical of other TNF superfamily members. The structure of 4-1BB is also largely canonical as is the 4-1BB/4-1BBL complex. Mutational data support the 4-1BBL structure reported here as being biologically relevant, suggesting that the previously reported structure is not. Together, the data presented here offer insight into structure/function relationships in the 4-1BB/4-1BBL system and improve our structural understanding of the TNF/TNFR superfamily more broadly.