Signaling via interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interleukin-9 receptors (IL-2R and IL-9R) involves heteromeric interactions between specific interleukin receptor subunits, which bind Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) and the JAK3 binding common γ chain (γc). The potential existence and roles of homomeric and heteromeric complexes before ligand binding and their modulation by ligand and JAK3 are unclear. Using computerized antibody-mediated immunofluorescence co-patching of epitope-tagged receptors at the surface of live cells, we demonstrate that IL-2Rβ, IL-9Rα, and γc each display a significant fraction of ligand-independent homomeric complexes (24-28% co-patching), whereas control co-patching levels with unrelated receptors are very low (7%). Heteromeric complex formation of IL2-Rβ or IL-9Rα with γc is also observed in the absence of ligand (15-30%). Ligand binding increases this hetero-oligomerization 2-fold but does not affect homo-oligomerization. Co-expression of IL-2Rα does not affect the hetero-oligomerization of IL-2Rβ and γc. Recruitment of γc into heterocomplexes is partly at the expense of its homo-oligomerization, suggesting that a functional role of the latter may be to keep the receptors inactive in the absence of ligand. At the same time, the preformed complexes between γc and IL-2Rβ or IL-9Rα promote signaling by the JAK3 A572V mutant without ligand, supporting a pathophysiological role for the constitutive oligomerization in triggering ligand-independent activation of JAK3 (and perhaps other JAK mutants) mutants identified in several human cancers
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