Redefining Autoimmune Therapy: The KGYY15 Breakthrough in CD40 and Integrin Signaling


CD40 is a cell surface protein that plays a crucial role in the immune system, particularly in the context of autoimmune diseases. It is found on antigen-presenting cells such as B cells, dendritic cells, and macrophages, as well as on activated T cells. CD40 expressing T cells called Th40 cells, can become pathogenic effector cells during autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes mellitus and multiple sclerosis. CD40 is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, and its interaction with its ligand, CD154 is essential for various immune responses. As an immune checkpoint for inflammation, researchers are actively studying CD40 and its potential as a therapeutic target to develop treatments that can modulate its activity and mitigate autoimmune responses. In a new study published in the peer-reviewed Journal Biological Chemistry by Mrs. Gisela Vaitaitis and Associate Professor, Dr. David H. Wagner Jr from the Webb-Waring Center at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, the researchers investigated the interactions involving CD40, CD154, and integrins, particularly CD11a/CD18 and CD11b/CD18, in the context of autoimmune conditions. Moreover, they explored how a peptide, KGYY15, originally developed to prevent type 1 diabetes, interacts with these molecules. The significance of their study lies in its potential implications for understanding and modulating autoimmune inflammation, offering new insights into the complex signaling network involving CD40 and integrins.

The researchers used different mouse strains, including BALB/c and NOD mice, to study various T-cell populations, including Th40 cells and conventional CD4 T cells. They compared these cell populations in terms of their surface expression of CD40, CD18, CD11a, and CD11b under different experimental conditions. They investigated the effects of Mn2+ (Manganese) activation on these cell populations. Mn2+ and other ions are known to activate integrins and other cell surface molecules. They analyzed changes in surface expression of CD18 and CD40 upon Mn2+ activation in different cell types. The CD18 surface expression on specific T-cell populations, notably Th40 cells from BALB/c and NOD mice, exhibited intriguing changes in response to Mn2+. In contrast, conventional CD4 T cells from both strains did not show alterations in CD40 or CD18 surface expression when subjected to Mn2+ activation. This observation suggests that the impact of Mn2+ activation may be cell-type-specific, emphasizing the importance of considering cellular context when developing therapeutic interventions.

To examine the direct interactions between CD40, CD154, and integrins, the researchers used KinExA assay which quantifies the binding affinity (Kd values) between CD40 and CD154, with and without the presence of the KGYY15 peptide as well as the influence of integrins on these interactions. The authors found that the direct interaction demonstrated between CD40 and CD154, with a binding affinity measured at 109.69 nM. Notably, this interaction strengthens when CD40 is combined with CD11b/CD18, further emphasizing the intricate relationships between CD40 and integrins. Conversely, CD40’s interaction with CD11a/CD18 appears to have a somewhat negative influence on the binding affinity. These findings emphasize the dynamic nature of these interactions, dependent on multiple factors such as cell type and inflammatory status.

The authors carried out Immunoprecipitation experiments to confirm physical interactions between CD40, CD11a, and CD11b in various cell populations. The researchers used the KGYY15 peptide, which was previously shown to immunoprecipitate CD40, as a tool to modulate interactions between CD40, CD154, and integrins. They explored how KGYY15 peptide influenced these interactions and signaling events. They suggested that this peptide may interfere with signals generated through CD40 or integrin interactions by temporally modulating these interactions. This modulation, rather than complete inhibition, presents an intriguing therapeutic approach for autoimmunity. By shifting the balance away from inflammatory CD40 interactions, this strategy may offer therapeutic advantages while avoiding immune suppression, a common challenge in autoimmune treatment. In addition to T cells, the authors used flow cytometry to analyze cell populations in the spleen from both mouse strains to assess surface expression changes in CD40, CD18, CD11a, and CD11b in response to Mn2+ activation.

In conclusion, the new study by Vaitaitis and Wagner opens up exciting possibilities for future investigations. One avenue for exploration is the development of therapeutic strategies based on modulating the CD40-CD154 signaling complex. Careful manipulation of this interaction can steer the immune response away from autoimmunity without compromising the body’s ability to fight infections. This approach offers a promising path forward in the quest to treat autoimmune diseases effectively. The KGYY15 peptide emerges as a potential modulator of these interactions, offering a novel approach to autoimmune treatment.


Vaitaitis GM, Wagner DH Jr. Modulating CD40 and integrin signaling in the proinflammatory nexus using a 15-amino-acid peptide, KGYY15. J Biol Chem. 2023 ;299(5):104625. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2023.104625.

Go To J Biol Chem.