CCR4 is the sole receptor for the chemokines CCL22 and CCL17. Clinical studies of asthmatic airways have shown levels of both ligands and CCR4 Th2 cells to be elevated, suggestive of a role in disease. Consequently, CCR4 has aroused much interest as a potential therapeutic target and an understanding of how its cell surface expression is regulated is highly desirable. To this end, receptor expression, receptor endocytosis, and chemotaxis were assessed using transfectants expressing CCR4, CCR4 human T cell lines, and human Th2 cells polarized in vitro. CCL17 and CCL22 drove rapid endocytosis of CCR4 in a dose-dependent manner. Replenishment at the cell surface was slow and sensitive to cycloheximide, suggestive of de novo synthesis of CCR4. Constitutive CCR4 endocytosis was also observed, with the internalized CCR4 found to be significantly degraded over a 6-h incubation. Truncation of the CCR4 C-terminus by 40 amino acids had no effect on cell surface expression, but resulted in significant impairment of ligand-induced endocytosis. Consequently, migration to both CCL17 and CCL22 was significantly enhanced. In contrast, truncation of CCR4 did not impair constitutive endocytosis or degradation, suggesting the use of alternative receptor motifs in these processes. We conclude that CCR4 cell surface levels are tightly regulated, with a degradative fate for endocytosed receptor. We postulate that this strict control is desirable, given that Th2 cells recruited by CCR4 can induce the further expression of CCR4 ligands in a positive feedback loop, thereby enhancing allergic inflammation.
©2020 Society for Leukocyte Biology.