Small molecule receptor agonists and antagonists of CCR3 provide insight into mechanisms of chemokine receptor activation

Emma L. Wise, Cécile Duchesnes, Paula C.A. Da Fonseca, Rodger A. Allen, Timothy J. Williams, James E. Pease*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Chemokine receptor CCR3 is highly expressed by eosinophils and signals in response to binding of the eotaxin family of chemokines, which are up-regulated in allergic disorders. Consequently, CCR3 blockade is of interest as a possible therapeutic approach for the treatment of allergic disease. We have described previously a bispecific antagonist of CCR1 and CCR3 named UCB35625 that was proposed to interact with the transmembrane residues Tyr-41, Tyr-113, and Glu-287 of CCR1, all of which are conserved in CCR3. Here, we show that cells expressing the CCR3 constructs Y113A and E287Q are insensitive to antagonism by UCB35625 and also exhibit impaired chemotaxis in response to CCL11/eotaxin, suggesting that these residues are important for antagonist binding and also receptor activation. Furthermore, mutation of the residue Tyr-113 to alanine was found to turn the antagonist UCB35625 into a CCR3 agonist. Screens of small molecule libraries identified a novel specific agonist of CCR3 named CH0076989. This was able to activate eosinophils and transfectants expressing both wild-type CCR3 and a CCR1-CCR3 chimeric receptor lacking the CCR3 amino terminus, indicating that this region of CCR3 is not required for CH0076989 binding. A direct interaction with the transmembrane helices of CCR3 was supported by mutation of the residues Tyr-41, Tyr-113, and Glu-287 that resulted in complete loss of CH0076989 activity, suggesting that the compound mimics activation by CCL11. We conclude that both agonists and antagonists of CCR3 appear to occupy overlapping sites within the transmembrane helical bundle, suggesting a fine line between agonism and antagonism of chemokine receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27935-27943
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


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