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Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) and natural ligands targeting costimulatory tumor necrosis factor receptors (TNFR) exhibit a wide range of agonistic activities and antitumor responses. The mechanisms underlying these differential agonistic activities remain poorly understood. Here, we employ a panel of experimental and clinically-relevant molecules targeting human CD40, 4-1BB and OX40 to examine this issue. Confocal and STORM microscopy reveal that strongly agonistic reagents induce clusters characterized by small area and high receptor density. Using antibody pairs differing only in isotype we show that hIgG2 confers significantly more receptor clustering than hIgG1 across all three receptors, explaining its greater agonistic activity, with receptor clustering shielding the receptor-agonist complex from further molecular access. Nevertheless, discrete receptor clustering patterns are observed with different hIgG2 mAb, with a unique rod-shaped assembly observed with the most agonistic mAb. These findings dispel the notion that larger receptor clusters elicit greater agonism, and instead point to receptor density and subsequent super-structure as key determinants.


Xiaojie Yu, Sonya James, James H Felce, Blanka Kellermayer, David A Johnston, H T Claude Chan, Christine A Penfold, Jinny Kim, Tatyana Inzhelevskaya, C Ian Mockridge, Yasunori Watanabe, Max Crispin, Ruth R French, Patrick J Duriez, Leon R Douglas, Martin J Glennie, Mark S Cragg. TNF receptor agonists induce distinct receptor clusters to mediate differential agonistic activity. Communications biology. 2021 Jun 23;4(1):772

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PMID: 34162985

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