Residues within the first disulphide loop of the GH receptor are highly conserved, and the two cysteines forming this motif are conserved across many cytokine receptors. We have used site-directed mutagenesis and the polymerase chain reaction with splicing by overlap extension to show that these residues are essential for binding of bovine (b)GH and human (h)GH to the rabbit GH receptor. When all residues within this loop were replaced with an equivalent polyalanine sequence, hormone binding was abolished. Conversion of Arg 39 within the loop to aspartate (R39D) decreased affinity for bGH by up to 20-fold. Conversion of Glu 42 to lysine (E42K) also resulted in a fivefold loss of affinity for bGH. However, charge reversals at Lys 37, Glu 44 and the conversion of Leu 43 to an arginine (as in the human receptor) were without a major effect on bGH binding. The lack of effect of the L43R mutation on bGH affinity, despite a significant (threefold) decrease in hGH affinity, argues against a role for Arg 43 as a residue conferring primate GH-binding specificity on the human receptor.
Examination of the affinities of poly Ala, R39D and E42K mutants for a variety of hormone-binding-site directed and other monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to the GH receptor revealed that these mutations were without a major effect on tertiary structure. It is of interest that the epitopes for the hormone-binding inhibitory MAbs 263 and 7 are located within this first loop, since the poly Ala mutation abolished the binding of both MAbs, and the R39D mutation abolished binding of MAb 7.
In conclusion, residues within the first disulphide loop of the GH receptor are critical for hormone binding, and are epitopes for the binding of inhibitory MAbs. These findings may be applicable to other cytokine receptors.