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1.  Antibody light chain variable domains and their biophysically improved versions for human immunotherapy 
mAbs  2013;6(1):219-235.
We set out to gain deeper insight into the potential of antibody light chain variable domains (VLs) as immunotherapeutics. To this end, we generated a naïve human VL phage display library and, by using a method previously shown to select for non-aggregating antibody heavy chain variable domains (VHs), we isolated a diversity of VL domains by panning the library against B cell super-antigen protein L. Eight domains representing different germline origins were shown to be non-aggregating at concentrations as high as 450 µM, indicating VL repertoires are a rich source of non-aggregating domains. In addition, the VLs demonstrated high expression yields in E. coli, protein L binding and high reversibility of thermal unfolding. A side-by-side comparison with a set of non-aggregating human VHs revealed that the VLs had similar overall profiles with respect to melting temperature (Tm), reversibility of thermal unfolding and resistance to gastrointestinal proteases. Successful engineering of a non-canonical disulfide linkage in the core of VLs did not compromise the non-aggregation state or protein L binding properties. Furthermore, the introduced disulfide bond significantly increased their Tms, by 5.5–17.5 °C, and pepsin resistance, although it somewhat reduced expression yields and subtly changed the structure of VLs. Human VLs and engineered versions may make suitable therapeutics due to their desirable biophysical features. The disulfide linkage-engineered VLs may be the preferred therapeutic format because of their higher stability, especially for oral therapy applications that necessitate high resistance to the stomach’s acidic pH and pepsin.
PMCID: PMC3929445  PMID: 24423624
VL; single-domain antibody; disulfide linkage; thermal stability; protease resistance
2.  Modulation of Toxin Production by the Flagellar Regulon in Clostridium difficile 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(10):3521-3532.
We show in this study that toxin production in Clostridium difficile is altered in cells which can no longer form flagellar filaments. The impact of inactivation of fliC, CD0240, fliF, fliG, fliM, and flhB-fliR flagellar genes upon toxin levels in culture supernatants was assessed using cell-based cytotoxicity assay, proteomics, immunoassay, and immunoblotting approaches. Each of these showed that toxin levels in supernatants were significantly increased in a fliC mutant compared to that in the C. difficile 630 parent strain. In contrast, the toxin levels in supernatants secreted from other flagellar mutants were significantly reduced compared with that in the parental C. difficile 630 strain. Transcriptional analysis of the pathogenicity locus genes (tcdR, tcdB, tcdE, and tcdA) revealed a significant increase of all four genes in the fliC mutant strain, while transcription of all four genes was significantly reduced in fliM, fliF, fliG, and flhB-fliR mutants. These results demonstrate that toxin transcription in C. difficile is modulated by the flagellar regulon. More significantly, mutant strains showed a corresponding change in virulence compared to the 630 parent strain when tested in a hamster model of C. difficile infection. This is the first demonstration of differential flagellum-related transcriptional regulation of toxin production in C. difficile and provides evidence for elaborate regulatory networks for virulence genes in C. difficile.
PMCID: PMC3457548  PMID: 22851750
3.  Crystal Structure of a Human Single Domain Antibody Dimer Formed through VH-VH Non-Covalent Interactions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30149.
Single-domain antibodies (sdAbs) derived from human VH are considered to be less soluble and prone to aggregate which makes it difficult to determine the crystal structures. In this study, we isolated and characterized two anti-human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) sdAbs, Gr3 and Gr6, from a synthetic human VH phage display library. Size exclusion chromatography and surface plasmon resonance analyses demonstrated that Gr3 is a monomer, but that Gr6 is a strict dimer. To understand this different molecular behavior, we solved the crystal structure of Gr6 to 1.6 Å resolution. The crystal structure revealed that the homodimer assembly of Gr6 closely mimics the VH-VL heterodimer of immunoglobulin variable domains and the dimerization interface is dominated by hydrophobic interactions.
PMCID: PMC3257273  PMID: 22253912
4.  Surface-immobilization of chromatographically purified bacteriophages for the optimized capture of bacteria 
Bacteriophage  2012;2(1):15-24.
Bacteriophages offer interesting alternatives to antibodies for the specific capture and detection of pathogenic bacteria onto biosensing surfaces. Procedures for the optimal chemical immobilization of lytic bacteriophages onto surfaces are presented. More specifically, the removal of lysate contaminants from bacteriophage suspensions by size exclusion chromatography significantly increases the resultant planar surface density of immobilized bacteriophages. E. coli T4 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium P22 phage systems seem to undergo highly heterogeneous adsorption to the surface, possibly explaining the observed phage clustering at higher surface densities. The T4 phage and its E. coli host were initially employed as a model system where we discovered an optimal planar surface density of phages for best bacterial capture: 18.9 ± 0.8 phages/μm2 capturing 18.0 ± 0.3 bacteria/100 μm2. Phage surface clustering ultimately limits the T4 phage-immobilized surface’s ability to specifically capture its host bacteria. Nevertheless, this is to our knowledge the largest surface capture density of E. coli reported using intact T4 bacteriophages. Two additional purified bacteriophage systems (P22 and Campylobacter jejuni phage NCTC 12673) were then similarly studied for their ability to capture their corresponding host bacteria (Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Campylobacter jejuni respectively) on a surface.
PMCID: PMC3357381  PMID: 22666653
bacteriophage; biosensor; food contamination; pathogenic bacteria; purification; surface adsorption; virus immobilization
5.  Engineered Single-Domain Antibodies with High Protease Resistance and Thermal Stability 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28218.
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.
PMCID: PMC3227653  PMID: 22140551
6.  Orally Administered P22 Phage Tailspike Protein Reduces Salmonella Colonization in Chickens: Prospects of a Novel Therapy against Bacterial Infections 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13904.
One of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in man and economically important animals is bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The emergence of difficult-to-treat infections, primarily caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria, demands for alternatives to antibiotic therapy. Currently, one of the emerging therapeutic alternatives is the use of lytic bacteriophages. In an effort to exploit the target specificity and therapeutic potential of bacteriophages, we examined the utility of bacteriophage tailspike proteins (Tsps). Among the best-characterized Tsps is that from the Podoviridae P22 bacteriophage, which recognizes the lipopolysaccharides of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. In this study, we utilized a truncated, functionally equivalent version of the P22 tailspike protein, P22sTsp, as a prototype to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of Tsps in the GI tract of chickens. Bacterial agglutination assays showed that P22sTsp was capable of agglutinating S. Typhimurium at levels similar to antibodies and incubating the Tsp with chicken GI fluids showed no proteolytic activity against the Tsp. Testing P22sTsp against the three major GI proteases showed that P22sTsp was resistant to trypsin and partially to chymotrypsin, but sensitive to pepsin. However, in formulated form for oral administration, P22sTsp was resistant to all three proteases. When administered orally to chickens, P22sTsp significantly reduced Salmonella colonization in the gut and its further penetration into internal organs. In in vitro assays, P22sTsp effectively retarded Salmonella motility, a factor implicated in bacterial colonization and invasion, suggesting that the in vivo decolonization ability of P22sTsp may, at least in part, be due to its ability to interfere with motility… Our findings show promise in terms of opening novel Tsp-based oral therapeutic approaches against bacterial infections in production animals and potentially in humans.
PMCID: PMC2989905  PMID: 21124920
7.  Toxin-Specific Antibodies for the Treatment of Clostridium difficile: Current Status and Future Perspectives † 
Toxins  2010;2(5):998-1018.
Therapeutic agents targeting bacterial virulence factors are gaining interest as non-antibiotic alternatives for the treatment of infectious diseases. Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive pathogen that produces two primary virulence factors, enterotoxins A and B (TcdA and TcdB), which are responsible for Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD) and are targets for CDAD therapy. Antibodies specific for TcdA and TcdB have been shown to effectively treat CDAD and prevent disease relapse in animal models and in humans. This review summarizes the various toxin-specific antibody formats and strategies under development, and discusses future directions for CDAD immunotherapy, including the use of engineered antibody fragments with robust biophysical properties for systemic and oral delivery.
PMCID: PMC3153223  PMID: 22069622
Clostridium difficile; Clostridium difficile-associated disease; toxin; antibody; single-domain antibody; neutralization; therapy
8.  Multivalent Anchoring and Oriented Display of Single-Domain Antibodies on Cellulose 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2009;9(7):5351-5367.
Antibody engineering has allowed for the rapid generation of binding agents against virtually any antigen of interest, predominantly for therapeutic applications. Considerably less attention has been given to the development of diagnostic reagents and biosensors using engineered antibodies. Recently, we produced a novel pentavalent bispecific antibody (i.e., decabody) by pentamerizing two single-domain antibodies (sdAbs) through the verotoxin B subunit (VTB) and found both fusion partners to be functional. Using a similar approach, we have engineered a bispecific pentameric fusion protein consisting of five sdAbs and five cellulose-binding modules (CBMs) linked via VTB. To find an optimal design format, we constructed six bispecific pentamers consisting of three different CBMs, fused to the Staphylococcus aureus-specific human sdAb HVHP428, in both orientations. One bispecific pentamer, containing an N-terminal CBM9 and C-terminal HVHP428, was soluble, non-aggregating, and did not degrade upon storage at 4 °C for over six months. This molecule was dually functional as it bound to cellulose-based filters as well as S. aureus cells. When impregnated in cellulose filters, the bispecific pentamer recognized S. aureus cells in a flow-through detection assay. The ability of pentamerized CBMs to bind cellulose may form the basis of an immobilization platform for multivalent display of high-avidity binding reagents on cellulosic filters for sensing of pathogens, biomarkers and environmental pollutants.
PMCID: PMC3274147  PMID: 22346702
single-domain antibody; cellulose-binding module; bispecific; pentamer; Staphylococcus aureus; pathogen detection

Results 1-8 (8)