The interaction of the multifunctional cytokine interleukin (IL)-6 and its receptor (IL-6R) is involved in various diseases, including not only autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis but also cancer and cytokine storms in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this study, systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) against human IL-6R from mRNA-displayed unnatural peptide library ribosomally initiated and cyclized with m-(chloromethyl)benzoic acid (mClPh) incorporated by genetic code expansion (sense suppression) was performed using the PURE (Protein synthesis Using Recombinant Elements) system. A novel 13-mer unnatural mClPh-cyclized peptide that binds to the extracellular domain of IL-6R was discovered from an extremely diverse random peptide library. In vitro affinity maturation of IL-6R-binding unnatural mClPh-cyclized peptide from focused libraries was performed, identifying two IL-6R-binding unnatural mClPh-cyclized peptides by next-generation sequencing. Because cyclization can increase the protease resistance of peptides, novel IL-6R-binding mClPh-cyclized peptides discovered in this study have the potential to be used for a variety of research, therapeutic, and diagnostic applications involving IL-6/IL-6R signaling.
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