Members of the Camelidae family produce immunoglobulins devoid of light chains. We have characterized variable domains of these heavy chain antibodies, the VHH, from llamas immunized with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope protein gp120 in order to identify VHH that can inhibit HIV-1 infection. To increase the chances of isolating neutralizing VHH, we employed a functional selection approach, involving panning of phage libraries expressing the VHH repertoire on recombinant gp120, followed by a competitive elution with soluble CD4. By immunizing with gp120 derived from an HIV-1 subtype B′/C primary isolate, followed by panning on gp120 from HIV-1 isolates of subtypes A, B, and C, we could select for VHH with cross-subtype neutralizing activity. Three VHH able to neutralize HIV-1 primary isolates of subtypes B and C were characterized. These bound to recombinant gp120 with affinities close to the suggested affinity ceiling for in vivo-maturated antibodies and competed with soluble CD4 for this binding, indicating that their mechanism of neutralization involves interacting with the functional envelope spike prior to binding to CD4. The most potent VHH in terms of low 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) and IC90 values and cross-subtype reactivity was A12. These results indicate that camelid VHH can be potent HIV-1 entry inhibitors. Since VHH are stable and can be produced at a relatively low cost, they may be considered for applications such as HIV-1 microbicide development. Antienvelope VHH might also prove useful in defining neutralizing and nonneutralizing epitopes on HIV-1 envelope proteins, with implications for HIV-1 vaccine design.
NS5B is pivotal RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of HCV and NS5B function interfering halts the virus infective cycle. This work aimed to produce cell penetrable humanized single domain antibodies (SdAb; VH/VHH) that interfere with the RdRp activity. Recombinant NS5BΔ55 of genotype 3a HCV with de novo RNA synthetic activity was produced and used in phage biopanning for selecting phage clones that displayed NS5BΔ55 bound VH/VHH from a humanized-camel VH/VHH display library. VH/VHH from E. coli transfected with four selected phage clones inhibited RdRp activity when tested by ELISA inhibition using 3′di-cytidylate 25 nucleotide directed in vitro RNA synthesis. Deduced amino acid sequences of two clones showed VHH hallmark and were designated VHH6 and VHH24; other clones were conventional VH, designated VH9 and VH13. All VH/VHH were linked molecularly to a cell penetrating peptide, penetratin. The cell penetrable VH9, VH13, VHH6 and VHH24 added to culture of Huh7 cells transfected with JHF-1 RNA of genotype 2a HCV reduced the amounts of RNA intracellularly and in culture medium implying that they inhibited the virus replication. VH/VHH mimotopes matched with residues scattered on the polymerase fingers, palm and thumb which were likely juxtaposed to form conformational epitopes. Molecular docking revealed that the antibodies covered the RdRp catalytic groove. The transbodies await further studies for in vivo role in inhibiting HCV replication.
Single-domain antibodies (sdAbs) found in camelids, lack a light chain and their antigen-binding site sits completely in the heavy-chain variable domain (VHH). Their simplicity, thermostability, and ease in expression have made VHHs highly attractive. While this has been successfully exploited for macromolecular antigens, their application to the detection of small molecules is still limited to a very few reports, mostly describing low affinity VHHs. Using triclocarban (TCC) as a model hapten, we found that conventional antibodies, IgG1 fraction, reacted with free TCC with a higher relative affinity (IC50 51.0 ng/mL) than did the sdAbs (IgG2 and IgG3, 497 and 370 ng/mL, respectively). A VHH library was prepared, and by elution of phage with limiting concentrations of TCC and competitive selection of binders, we were able to isolate high-affinity clones, KD 0.98–1.37 nM (SPR) which allowed development of a competitive assay for TCC with an IC50 = 3.5 ng/mL (11 nM). This represents a 100-fold improvement with regard to the performance of the sdAb serum fraction, and it is 100-fold better than the IC50 attained with other anti-hapten VHHs reported thus far. Despite the modest overall anti-hapten sdAbs response in llamas, a small subpopulation of high affinity VHHs are generated that can be isolated by carefully design of the selection process.
sdAbs; triclocarban; phage display; small-molecule; competitive ELISA
Antibodies are important tools for experimental research and medical applications. Most antibodies are composed of two heavy and two light chains. Both chains contribute to the antigen-binding site which is usually flat or concave. In addition to these conventional antibodies, llamas, other camelids, and sharks also produce antibodies composed only of heavy chains. The antigen-binding site of these unusual heavy chain antibodies (hcAbs) is formed only by a single domain, designated VHH in camelid hcAbs and VNAR in shark hcAbs. VHH and VNAR are easily produced as recombinant proteins, designated single domain antibodies (sdAbs) or nanobodies. The CDR3 region of these sdAbs possesses the extraordinary capacity to form long fingerlike extensions that can extend into cavities on antigens, e.g., the active site crevice of enzymes. Other advantageous features of nanobodies include their small size, high solubility, thermal stability, refolding capacity, and good tissue penetration in vivo. Here we review the results of several recent proof-of-principle studies that open the exciting perspective of using sdAbs for modulating immune functions and for targeting toxins and microbes.
Single domain antibodies; Recombinant antibodies; VHH; Nanobody; Enzyme inhibitors; Virus neutralization
Nanobodies (or variable domain of the heavy chain of the heavy-chain antibodies, VHHs) are single-domain antigen-binding fragments derived from camelid heavy chain antibodies. Their comparatively small size, monomeric behavior, high stability, high solubility, and ability to bind epitopes inaccessible to conventional antibodies make them especially suitable for many therapeutic and biotechnological applications. In this paper, for the first time, we created the immunized Camelus Bactrianus VHH yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) library according to the Clontech Mate & Plate library construction system. The transformation efficiency and titer of the VHH Y2H library were 7.26×106 cfu/3 µg and 2×109 cfu/ml, which met the demand for Y2H library screening. Using as an example the porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) Cap protein as bait, we screened 21 positive Cap-specific VHH sequences. Among these sequences, 7 of 9 randomly selected clones were strongly positive as indicated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, either using PCV2 viral lysis or purified Cap protein as coated antigen. Additionally, the immunocytochemistry results further indicated that the screened VHHs could specifically detected PCV2 in the infected cells. All this suggests the feasibility of in vivo VHH throughput screening based on Y2H strategy.
Recombinant single domain antibody fragments (VHHs) that derive from the unusual camelid heavy chain only IgG class (HCAbs) have many favourable properties compared with single-chain antibodies prepared from conventional IgG. As a result, VHHs have become widely used as binding reagents and are beginning to show potential as therapeutic agents. To date, the source of VHH genetic material has been camels and llamas despite their large size and limited availability. Here we demonstrate that the smaller, more tractable and widely available alpaca is an excellent source of VHH coding DNA. Alpaca sera IgG consists of about 50% HCAbs, mostly of the short-hinge variety. Sequencing of DNA encoding more than 50 random VHH and hinge domains permitted the design of PCR primers that will amplify virtually all alpaca VHH coding DNAs for phage display library construction. Alpacas were immunized with ovine tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) and a VHH phage display library was prepared from a lymph node that drains the sites of immunizations and successfully employed in the isolation of VHHs that bind and neutralize ovine TNFα.
Recombinant antibody; VHH; HCAb; camelid; alpaca; TNF
Small, soluble single-domain fragments derived from the unique variable region of dromedary heavy-chain antibodies (VHHs) against enzymes are known to be potent inhibitors. The immunization of dromedaries with the TEM-1 and BcII β-lactamases has lead to the isolation of such single-domain antibody fragments specifically recognizing and inhibiting those β-lactamases. Two VHHs were isolated that inhibit TEM-1 and one BcII inhibiting VHH was identified. All inhibitory VHHs were tight-binding inhibitors. The 50% inhibitory concentrations were determined for all inhibitors and they were all in the same range as the enzyme concentration used in the assay. Addition of the VHHs to the TEM-1 β-lactamase, expressed on the surface of bacteria, leads to a higher ampicillin sensitivity of the bacteria. This innovative strategy could generate multiple potent inhibitors for all types of β-lactamases.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) function by delivering a protease to neuronal cells that cleave SNARE proteins and inactivate neurotransmitter exocytosis. Small (14 kDa) binding domains specific for the protease of BoNT serotypes A or B were selected from libraries of heavy chain only antibody domains (VHHs or nanobodies) cloned from immunized alpacas. Several VHHs bind the BoNT proteases with high affinity (KD near 1 nM) and include potent inhibitors of BoNT/A protease activity (Ki near 1 nM). The VHHs retain their binding specificity and inhibitory functions when expressed within mammalian neuronal cells as intrabodies. A VHH inhibitor of BoNT/A protease was able to protect neuronal cell SNAP25 protein from cleavage following intoxication with BoNT/A holotoxin. These results demonstrate that VHH domains have potential as components of therapeutic agents for reversal of botulism intoxication.
VHH; Nanobody; Intrabody; Botulinum; Neurotoxin; BoNT; Metalloproteinase
Camelids produce functional antibodies devoid of light chains of which the single N-terminal domain is fully capable of antigen binding. These single-domain antibody fragments (VHHs or Nanobodies®) have several advantages for biotechnological applications. They are well expressed in microorganisms and have a high stability and solubility. Furthermore, they are well suited for construction of larger molecules and selection systems such as phage, yeast, or ribosome display. This minireview offers an overview of (1) their properties as compared to conventional antibodies, (2) their production in microorganisms, with a focus on yeasts, and (3) their therapeutic applications.
Single-domain; Microbial production; Yeast; Glycosylation
It is well established that all camelids have unique antibodies circulating in their blood. Unlike antibodies from all other species, these special antibodies are devoid of light chains, and are composed of a heavy chain homodimer. These so-called heavy-chain antibodies (HCAbs) are expressed after a V-D-J rearrangement and require dedicated constant gamma genes. An immune response is raised in these HCAbs following a classical immunization protocol. These HCAbs are easily purified from serum, and their antigen-binding fragment interacts with parts of the target that are less antigenic to conventional antibodies. The antigen binding site of the dromedary HCAb comprises one single domain, referred to as VHH or nanobody (Nb), therefore, a strategy was designed to clone the Nb repertoire of an immunized dromedary and to select the Nb with specificity for our target antigens. The monoclonal Nb is produced well in bacteria, is very stable and highly soluble, and it binds the antigen with high affinity and specificity. Currently, the recombinant Nb has been developed successfully for research purposes, as a probe in biosensors, to diagnose infections, or to treat diseases such as cancer or trypanosomiasis.
Heavy-chain antibody; Single-domain antibody; Monoclonal antibody; Nanobody
Unlike conventional antibodies, heavy chain only antibodies derived from camel contain a single variable domain (VHH) and two constant domains (CH2 and CH3). Cloned and isolated VHHs possess unique properties that enable them to excel conventional therapeutic antibodies and their smaller antigen-binding fragments in cancer targeting and therapy. VHHs express low immunogenicity, are highly robust and easy to manufacture and have the ability to recognize hidden or uncommon epitopes. We highlight the utility of VHH in design of new molecular, multifunctional particulate and immune cell-based systems for combating HER2+ breast cancer.
Chimeric Antigen Receptors; Heavy Chain Only Antibodies; HER2; Nanotechnology; Single Variable Domain
Screening of antibody (Ab) libraries by direct display on the surface of E. coli cells is hampered by the presence of the outer membrane (OM). In this work we demonstrate that the native β-domains of EhaA autotransporter and intimin, two proteins from enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 (EHEC) with opposite topologies in the OM, are effective systems for the display of immune libraries of single domain Abs (sdAbs) from camelids (nanobodies or VHH) on the surface of E. coli K-12 cells and for the selection of high affinity sdAbs using magnetic cell sorting (MACS). We analyzed the capacity of EhaA and intimin β-domains to display individual sdAbs and sdAb libraries obtained after immunization with the extracellular domain of the translocated intimin receptor from EHEC (TirMEHEC). We demonstrated that both systems displayed functional sdAbs on the surface of E. coli cells with little proteolysis and cellular toxicity, although E. coli cells displaying sdAbs with the β-domain of intimin showed higher antigen-binding capacity. Both E. coli display libraries were screened for TirMEHEC binding clones by MACS. High affinity binders were selected by both display systems, although more efficiently with the intimin β-domain. The specificity of the selected clones against TirMEHEC was demonstrated by flow cytometry of E. coli cells, along with ELISA and surface plasmon resonance with purified sdAbs. Finally, we employed the E. coli cell display systems to provide an estimation of the affinity of the selected sdAb by flow cytometry analysis under equilibrium conditions.
Single-domain antibody fragments (VHHs) have several beneficial properties as compared to conventional antibody fragments. However, their small size complicates their toxin- and virus-neutralizing capacity. We isolated 27 VHHs binding Escherichia coli heat-labile toxin and expressed these in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The most potent neutralizing VHH (LT109) was N-glycosylated, resulting in a large increase in molecular mass. This suggests that N-glycosylation of LT109 improves its neutralizing capacity. Indeed, deglycosylation of LT109 decreased its neutralizing capacity three- to fivefold. We also studied the effect of glycosylation of two previously isolated VHHs on their ability to neutralize foot-and-mouth disease virus. For this purpose, these VHHs that lacked potential N-glycosylation sites were genetically fused to another VHH that was known to be glycosylated. The resulting fusion proteins were also N-glycosylated. They neutralized the virus at at least fourfold-lower VHH concentrations as compared to the single, non-glycosylated VHHs and at at least 50-fold-lower VHH concentrations as compared to their deglycosylated counterparts. Thus, we have shown that N-glycosylation of VHHs contributes to toxin- and virus-neutralizing capacity.
Nanobody; Recombinant antibody; Neutralization; N-glycosylation; Yeast
Sepsis is a considerable health problem and a burden on the health care system. Endotoxin, or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), present in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria, is responsible for more than 50% of the sepsis cases and is, therefore, a legitimate target for therapeutic approaches against sepsis. In this study, we selected and characterized a llama single-chain antibody fragment (VHH) directed to Neisseria meningitidis LPS. The VHH, designated VHH 5G, showed affinity to purified LPS as well as to LPS on the surfaces of the bacteria. Epitope mapping using a panel of N. meningitidis mutants revealed that VHH 5G recognizes an epitope in the inner core of LPS, and as expected, the VHH proved to have broad specificity for LPS from different bacteria. Furthermore, this VHH blocked binding of LPS to target cells of the immune system, resulting in the inhibition of LPS signaling in whole blood. Moreover, it was found to remove LPS efficiently from aqueous solutions, including serum. The selected anti-LPS VHH is a leading candidate for therapies against LPS-mediated sepsis.
Dysregulation of PKCε is involved in several serious diseases such as cancer, type II diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, specific activators and inhibitors of PKCε hold promise as future therapeutics, in addition to being useful in research into PKCε regulated pathways. We have previously described llama single chain antibodies (VHHs) that specifically activate (A10, C1 and D1) or inhibit (E6 and G8) human recombinant PKCε. Here we report a thorough kinetic analysis of these VHHs. The inhibiting VHHs act as non-competitive inhibitors of PKCε activity, whereas the activating VHHs have several different modes of action, either increasing Vmax and/or decreasing Km values. We also show that the binding of the VHHs to PKCε is conformation-dependent, rendering the determination of affinities difficult. Apparent affinities are in the micromolar range based on surface plasmon resonance studies. Furthermore, the VHHs have no effect on the activity of rat PKCε nor can they bind the rat form of the protein in immunoprecipitation studies despite the 98% identity between the human and rat PKCε proteins. Finally, we show for the first time that the VHHs can influence PKCε function also in cells, since an activating VHH increases the rate of PKCε translocation in response to PMA in HeLa cells, whereas an inhibiting VHH slows down the translocation. These results give insight into the mechanisms of PKCε activity modulation and highlight the importance of protein conformation on VHH binding.
Antibodies are indispensable reagents in basic research, and those raised against tags constitute a useful tool for the evaluation of the biochemistry and biology of novel proteins. In this paper, we describe the isolation and characterization of a single-domain recombinant antibody (VHH) specific for the SNAP-tag, using Twist2 as a test-protein. The antibody was efficient in western blot, immunoprecipitation, immunopurification, and immunofluorescence. The sequence corresponding to the anti-SNAP has been subcloned for large-scale expression in vectors that allow its fusion to either a 6xHis-tag or the Fc domain of rabbit IgG2 taking advantage of a new plasmid that was specifically designed for VHH antibodies. The two different fusion antibodies were compared in immunopurification and immunofluorescence experiments, and the recombinant protein SNAP-Twist2 was accurately identified by the anti-SNAP Fc-VHH construct in the nuclear/nucleolar subcellular compartment. Furthermore, such localization was confirmed by direct Twist2 identification by means of anti-Twisit2 VHH antibodies recovered after panning of the same naïve phage display library used to isolate the anti-SNAP binders. Our successful localization of Twist2 protein using the SNAP-tag-based approach and the anti-Twist2-specific recombinant single-domain antibodies opens new research possibilities in this field.
The understanding of cellular processes and their pathophysiological alterations requires comprehensive data on the abundance, distribution, modification, and interaction of all cellular components. On the one hand, artificially introduced fluorescent fusion proteins provide information about their distribution and dynamics in living cells but not about endogenous factors. On the other hand, antibodies can detect endogenous proteins, posttranslational modifications, and other cellular components but mostly in fixed and permeabilized cells. Here we highlight a new technology based on the antigen-binding domain of heavy-chain antibodies (VHH) from Camelidae. These extremely stable VHH domains can be produced in bacteria, coupled to matrices, and used for affinity purification and proteome studies. Alternatively, these VHH domains can be fused with fluorescent proteins and expressed in living cells. These fluorescent antigen-binding proteins called “chromobodies” can be used to detect and trace proteins and other cellular components in vivo. Chromobodies can, in principle, detect any antigenic structure, including posttranslational modifications, and thereby dramatically expand the quality and quantity of information that can be gathered in high-content analysis. Depending on the epitope chosen, chromobodies can also be used to modulate protein function in living cells.
FigureDetection of the nuclear lamina with lamin chromobody in living cells.
Antibodies; Nanobodies; High-content analysis; Proteomics; Green fluorescent protein; Fluorescent proteins
Some unique subclasses of Camelidae antibodies are devoid of light chain and the antigen binding site is comprised exclusively of the variable domain of the heavy chain (VHH). Although conventional antibodies dominate current assay development, recombinant VHHs have a high potential as alternative reagents for the next generation of immunoassay. We expressed VHHs from an immunized alpaca and developed a VHH-based immunoassay using 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA), a major metabolite of pyrethroid insecticides as a model system. A phage VHH library was constructed and seven VHH clones were selected by competitive binding with 3-PBA. The best immunoassay developed with one of these VHHs showed an IC50 of 1.4 ng/mL (limit of detection (LOD) = 0.1 ng/mL). These parameters were further improved by using the phage borne VHH, IC50 = 0.1 ng/mL and LOD = 0.01 ng/mL. Both assays showed a similar tolerance to methanol and dimethylsulfoxide up to 50% in assay buffer. The assay was highly specific to 3-PBA and its 4-hydroxylated derivative, 4-hydroxy 3-PBA (150% cross reactivity) with negligible cross reactivity with other tested structural analogs and the recovery from spiked urine sample ranged from 80 to 112%. In conclusion, a highly specific and sensitive VHH for 3-PBA was developed using sequences from immunized alpaca and phage display technology for antibody selection.
There are currently 7 known serotypes of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) classified upon non-cross reactivity of neutralizing immunoglobulins. Non-neutralizing immunoglobulins, however, can exhibit cross-reactivities between 2 or more serotypes, particularly mosaic forms, which can hamper the development of highly specific immunoassays, especially if based on polyclonal antisera. Here we employ facile recombinant antibody technology to subtractively select ligands to each of the 7 BoNT serotypes, resulting in populations with very high specificity for their intended serotype.
Methods and Findings
A single llama was immunized with a cocktail of 7 BoNT toxoids to generate a phage display library of single domain antibodies (sdAb, VHH or nanobodies) which were selected on live toxins. Resulting sdAb were capable of detecting both toxin and toxin complex with the best combinations able to detect 100s-10s of pg per 50 µL sample in a liquid bead array. The most sensitive sdAb were combined in a heptaplex assay to identify each of the BoNT serotypes in buffer and milk and to a lesser extent in carrot juice, orange juice and cola. Several anti-A(1) sdAb recognized A2 complex, showing that subtype cross-reactivity within a serotype was evident. Many of our sdAb could act as both captor and tracer for several toxin and toxin complexes suggesting sdAb can be used as architectural probes to indicate BoNT oligomerisation. Six of 14 anti-A clones exhibited inhibition of SNAP-25 cleavage in the neuro-2A assay indicating some sdAb had toxin neutralizing capabilities. Many sdAb were also shown to be refoldable after exposure to high temperatures in contrast to polyclonal antisera, as monitored by circular dichroism.
Our panel of molecularly flexible antibodies should not only serve as a good starting point for ruggedizing assays and inhibitors, but enable the intricate architectures of BoNT toxins and complexes to be probed more extensively.
Camelids have a special type of antibodies, known as heavy chain antibodies (HCAbs), that are devoid of classical antibody light chains. Relative to classical antibodies, camelid HCAbs (cAbs) have comparable immunogenicity, antigen recognition diversity and binding affinities, higher stability and solubility, and better manufacturability, making them promising candidates for alternate therapeutic scaffolds. Rational engineering of cAbs to improve therapeutic function requires knowledge of the differences of sequence and structural features between cAbs and classical antibodies. Here, amino acid sequences of 27 cAb variable regions (VHH) were aligned with the respective regions of 54 classical antibodies to detect amino acid differences, enabling automatic identification of cAb VHH complementarity determining regions (CDRs). CDR analysis revealed that the H1 often (and sometimes the H2) adopts diverse conformations not classifiable by established canonical rules. Also, while the cAb H3 is much longer than classical H3 loops, it often contains common structural motifs and sometimes a disulfide bond to the H1. Leveraging these observations, we created a Monte Carlo based cAb VHH structural modeling tool, where the CDR H1 and H2 loops exhibited a median root-mean-square-deviation (rmsd) to native of 3.1 and 1.5 Å respectively. The protocol generated 8-12, 14-16 and 16-24 residue H3 loops with a median rmsd to native of 5.7, 4.5 and 6.8 Å respectively. The large deviation of the predicted loops underscores the challenge in modeling such long loops. cAb VHH homology models can provide structural insights into interaction mechanisms to enable development of novel antibodies for therapeutic and biotechnological use.
Recently, we described llama antibody fragments (VHH) that can neutralize human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV-1). These VHH were obtained after selective elution of phages carrying an immune library raised against gp120 of HIV-1 subtype B/C CN54 with soluble CD4. We describe here a new, family-specific approach to obtain the largest possible diversity of related VHH that compete with soluble CD4 for binding to the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein. The creation of this family-specific library of homologous VHH has enabled us to isolate phages carrying similar nucleotide sequences as the parental VHH. These VHH displayed varying binding affinities and neutralization phenotypes to a panel of different strains and subtypes of HIV-1. Sequence analysis of the homologs showed that the C-terminal three amino acids of the CDR3 loop were crucial in determining the specificity of these VHH for different subtype C HIV-1 strains. There was a positive correlation between affinity of VHH binding to gp120 of HIV-1 IIIB and the breadth of neutralization of diverse HIV-1 envelopes. The family-specific approach has therefore allowed us to better understand the interaction of the CD4-binding site antibodies with virus strain specificity and has potential use for the bioengineering of antibodies and HIV-1 vaccine development.
Antibodies; HIV; Human Immunodeficiency Virus; Kinetics; Retrovirus; Surface Plasmon Resonance; VHH; Llama Heavy Chain Antibodies; Neutralizing Antibodies; Phage Display
The extreme pH and protease-rich environment of the upper gastrointestinal tract is a major obstacle facing orally-administered protein therapeutics, including antibodies. Through protein engineering, several Clostridium difficile toxin A-specific heavy chain antibody variable domains (VHHs) were expressed with an additional disulfide bond by introducing Ala/Gly54Cys and Ile78Cys mutations. Mutant antibodies were compared to their wild-type counterparts with respect to expression yield, non-aggregation status, affinity for toxin A, circular dichroism (CD) structural signatures, thermal stability, protease resistance, and toxin A-neutralizing capacity. The mutant VHHs were found to be well expressed, although with lower yields compared to wild-type counterparts, were non-aggregating monomers, retained low nM affinity for toxin A, albeit the majority showed somewhat reduced affinity compared to wild-type counterparts, and were capable of in vitro toxin A neutralization in cell-based assays. Far-UV and near-UV CD spectroscopy consistently showed shifts in peak intensity and selective peak minima for wild-type and mutant VHH pairs; however, the overall CD profile remained very similar. A significant increase in the thermal unfolding midpoint temperature was observed for all mutants at both neutral and acidic pH. Digestion of the VHHs with the major gastrointestinal proteases, at biologically relevant concentrations, revealed a significant increase in pepsin resistance for all mutants and an increase in chymotrypsin resistance for the majority of mutants. Mutant VHH trypsin resistance was similar to that of wild-type VHHs, although the trypsin resistance of one VHH mutant was significantly reduced. Therefore, the introduction of a second disulfide bond in the hydrophobic core not only increases VHH thermal stability at neutral pH, as previously shown, but also represents a generic strategy to increase VHH stability at low pH and impart protease resistance, with only minor perturbations in target binding affinities. These are all desirable characteristics for the design of protein-based oral therapeutics.
A series of expression cassettes which mediate secretion or surface display of antibody fragments was stably integrated in the chromosome of Lactobacillus paracasei. L. paracasei producing surface-anchored variable domain of llama heavy chain (VHH) (ARP1) directed against rotavirus showed efficient binding to rotavirus and protection in the mouse model of rotavirus infection.
A major architectural class in engineered binding proteins (“antibody mimics”) involves the presentation of recognition loops off a single-domain scaffold. This class of binding proteins, both natural and synthetic, has a strong tendency to bind a preformed cleft using a convex binding interface (paratope). To explore their capacity to produce high-affinity interfaces with diverse shape and topography, we examined the interface energetics and explored the affinity limit achievable with a flat paratope. We chose a minimalist paratope limited to two loops found in a natural camelid heavy-chain antibody (VHH) that binds to ribonuclease A. Ala scanning of the VHH revealed only three “hot-spot” side chains and additional four residues important for supporting backbone-mediated interactions. The small number of critical residues suggested that this is not an optimized paratope. Using selection from synthetic combinatorial libraries, we enhanced its affinity by >100 fold, resulting in variants with Kd as low as 180 pM with no detectable loss of binding specificity. High-resolution crystal structures revealed that the mutations induced only subtle structural changes but extended the network of interactions. This resulted in an expanded hot-spot region including four additional residues located at the periphery of the paratope with a concomitant loss of the so-called “O-ring” arrangement of energetically inert residues. These results suggest that this class of simple, single-domain scaffolds is capable of generating high-performance binding interfaces with diverse shape. More generally they suggest that highly functional interfaces can be designed without closely mimicking natural interfaces.
antibody-antigen interaction; interface topography; binding hot spot; ligand efficiency; O-ring theory
Recombinant antibodies from Camelidae (VHHs) are potentially useful tools for both basic research and biotechnological applications because of their small size, robustness, easy handling and possibility to refold after chemio-physical denaturation. Their heat tolerance is a particularly interesting feature because it has been recently related to both high yields during recombinant expression and selective purification of folded protein.
Purification of recombinant RE3 VHH by heat treatment yielded the same amount of antibody as purification by affinity chromatography and negligible differences were found in stability, secondary structure and functionality. Similar results were obtained using another class of thermotolerant proteins, the single domain VH scaffold, described by Jespers et al. . However, thermosensitive VHs could not withstand the heat treatment and co-precipitated with the bacterial proteins. In both cases, the thermotolerant proteins unfolded during the treatment but promptly refolded when moved back to a compatible temperature.
Heat treatment can simplify the purification protocol of thermotolerant proteins as well as remove any soluble aggregate. Since the re-folding capability after heat-induced denaturation was previously correlated to higher performance during recombinant expression, a unique heating step can be envisaged to screen constructs that can provide high yields of correctly-folded proteins.