Key Points

  • H499C and H499Y mutations enhance activation of TpoR by novel L498W and canonical S505N mutations.

  • Activation of TpoR by eltrombopag and the L498W, S505N, and W515K mutants depends on W491, which might be accessible on the cell surface.


Mutations in the MPL gene encoding the human thrombopoietin receptor (TpoR) drive sporadic and familial essential thrombocythemias (ETs). We identified 2 ET patients harboring double mutations in cis in MPL, namely, L498W-H499C and H499Y-S505N. Using biochemical and signaling assays along with partial saturation mutagenesis, we showed that L498W is an activating mutation potentiated by H499C and that H499C and H499Y enhance the activity of the canonical S505N mutation. L498W and H499C can activate a truncated TpoR mutant, which lacks the extracellular domain, indicating these mutations act on the transmembrane (TM) cytosolic domain. Using a protein complementation assay, we showed that L498W and H499C strongly drive dimerization of TpoR. Activation by tryptophan substitution is exquisitely specific for position 498. Using structure-guided mutagenesis, we identified upstream amino acid W491 as a key residue required for activation by L498W or canonical activating mutations such as S505N and W515K, as well as by eltrombopag. Structural data point to a common dimerization and activation path for TpoR via its TM domain that is shared between the small-molecule agonist eltrombopag and canonical and novel activating TpoR mutations that all depend on W491, a potentially accessible extracellular residue that could become a target for therapeutic intervention.

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