Published Work

selected publications

a full list of Klein Lab publications can be found at pubmed


August 30, 2017

A ligand divided: antagonist, agonist and analog control.

Inhibiting receptor tyrosine kinases has been a cornerstone of cancer therapeutics for decades. Treatment strategies largely involve small-molecule kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. For receptors activated by constitutively dimeric ligands, another potential mechanism of inhibition exists: developing monomeric ligands that prevent receptor dimerization. In a recent issue of the Biochemical Journal, Zur et al. [Biochem. J. (2017) 474, 2601-2617] describe the details of creating such an inhibitor directed toward the macrophage colony-stimulating factor receptor, c-FMS. In the process of teasing apart the ligand dimer, they also uncover a potential cryptic regulatory mechanism in this receptor subfamily. Biochem J. 2017 Aug 30;474(18):3087-3088. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20170495.


March 9, 2017

Functional Selectivity in Cytokine Signaling Revealed Through a Pathogenic EPO Mutation.

Cytokines are classically thought to stimulate downstream signaling pathways through monotonic activation of receptors. We describe a severe anemia resulting from a homozygous mutation (R150Q) in the cytokine erythropoietin (EPO). Surprisingly, the EPO R150Q mutant shows only a mild reduction in affinity for its receptor but has altered binding kinetics. The EPO mutant is less effective at stimulating erythroid cell proliferation and differentiation, even at maximally potent concentrations. While the EPO mutant can stimulate effectors such as STAT5 to a similar extent as the wild-type ligand, there is reduced JAK2-mediated phosphorylation of select downstream targets. This impairment in downstream signaling mechanistically arises from altered receptor dimerization dynamics due to extracellular binding changes. These results demonstrate how variation in a single cytokine can lead to biased downstream signaling and can thereby cause human disease. Moreover, we have defined a distinct treatable form of anemia through mutation identification and functional studies. Cell. 2017 Mar 9;168(6):1053-1064.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.026.


December 17, 2015

Structural Basis of Neurohormone Perception by the Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Torso.

In insects, brain-derived Prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH) activates the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) Torso to initiate metamorphosis through the release of ecdysone. We have determined the crystal structure of silkworm PTTH in complex with the ligand-binding region of Torso. Here we show that ligand-induced Torso dimerization results from the sequential and negatively cooperative formation of asymmetric heterotetramers. Mathematical modeling of receptor activation based upon our biophysical studies shows that ligand pulses are "buffered" at low receptor levels, leading to a sustained signal. By contrast, high levels of Torso develop the signal intensity and duration of a noncooperative system. We propose that this may allow Torso to coordinate widely different functions from a single ligand by tuning receptor levels. Phylogenic analysis indicates that Torso is found outside arthropods, including human parasitic roundworms. Together, our findings provide mechanistic insight into how this receptor system, with roles in embryonic and adult development, is regulated. Mol Cell. 2015 Dec 17;60(6):941-52. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.10.026. Epub 2015 Nov 19.