Tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) is a central mediator of the inflammatory pathway and is associated with several autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. A revision to the canonical model of TNFR1 activation suggests that activation involves conformational rearrangements of preassembled receptor dimers. Here, we identified small-molecule allosteric inhibitors of TNFR1 activation and probed receptor dimerization and function. Specifically, we used a fluorescence lifetime-based high-throughput screen and biochemical, biophysical, and cellular assays to identify small molecules that noncompetitively inhibited the receptor without reducing ligand affinity or disrupting receptor dimerization. We also found that residues in the ligand-binding loop that are critical to the dynamic coupling between the extracellular and the transmembrane domains played a key gatekeeper role in the conformational dynamics associated with signal propagation. Last, using a simple structure-activity relationship analysis, we demonstrated that these newly found molecules could be further optimized for improved potency and specificity. Together, these data solidify and deepen the new model for TNFR1 activation.
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© 2019 The Authors.