In this blog post I describe three successful studies on structure based re-design of antibody binding sites, leading to significant improvements of binding affinity.
In their study Clark et al. re-designed a binding site of antibody AQC2 to improve its binding affinity to the I domain of human integrin VLA1. The authors assessed the effects of the mutations on the binding energy using the CHARMM[2,3] potential with the electrostatic and desolations energies calculated using the ICE software. In total, 83 variants were identified for experimental validation, some of which included multiple mutations. The mutated antibodies were expressed in E. Coli and the affinity to the antigen was measured. The best mutant included a total of four mutations which improved the affinity by approximately one order of magnitude from 7 nM to 850 pM. The crystal structure of the best mutant was solved to further study the interaction of the mutant with the target.
Lippow et al. studied the interactions of three antibodies – the anti-epidermal growth factor receptor drug cetuximab, the anti-lysozyme antibody D44.1 and the anti-lysosyme antibody D1.3 with their respective antigens. The energy calculations favoured mutations to large amino acids (such as Phe or Trp) of which most were found to be false positives. More accurate results were obtained using only the electrostatic term of the energy function. The authors improved the binding affinity of D44.1 by one order of magnitude and the affinity of centuximab by 2 orders of magnitude. The antibody D1.3 didn’t show many opportunities for electrostatic improvement and the authors suggest it might be an anomalous antibody.
Computational methods have recently been used to successfully introduce non-canonical amino acids (NCAA) into the antibody binding site. Xu et al. introduced L-DOPA (L-3,4-dihydroxephenyalanine) into the CDRs of anti-protective antigen scFv antibody M18 to crosslink it with its native antigen. The authors used the program Rosetta 3.4 to create models of antibody-antigen complex with L-DOPA residues. The distance between L-DOPA and a lysine nucleophile was used as a predictor of crosslinking was. The crosslinking efficiency was quantified as a fraction of antibodies that underwent a mass change, measured using Western blot assays. The measured average efficiency of the mutants was 10% with the maximum efficiency of 52%.
 Clark LA, Boriack-Sjodin PA, Eldredge J, Fitch C, Friedman B, Hanf KJM, et al. Affinity enhancement of an in vivo matured therapeutic antibody using structure-based computational design. Protein Sci 2006;15:949–60. doi:10.1110/ps.052030506.
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 Lippow SM, Wittrup KD, Tidor B. Computational design of antibody-affinity improvement beyond in vivo maturation. Nat Biotechnol 2007;25:1171–6. doi:10.1038/nbt1336.
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 Xu J, Tack D, Hughes RA, Ellington AD, Gray JJ. Structure-based non-canonical amino acid design to covalently crosslink an antibody-antigen complex. J Struct Biol 2014;185:215–22. doi:10.1016/j.jsb.2013.05.003.