A polar ring endows improved specificity to an antibody fragment

Schaefer ZP, Bailey LJ, Kossiakoff AA

Protein Sci. 2016 07;25(7):1290-8

PMID: 27334407


Engineering monovalent Fab fragments into bivalent formats like IgGs or F(ab’)2 can lead to aggregation presumably because of nonspecific off-target interactions that induce aggregation. In an effort to further understand the molecular determinants of nonspecific interactions for engineered antibodies and natively folded proteins in general, we focused on a synthetic Fab with low nanomolar affinity to histone chaperone Anti-silencing factor 1 (Asf1) that demonstrates off-target binding through low solubility (∼5 mg/mL) in the multivalent F(ab’) 2 state. Here, we generated phage display-based shotgun scanning libraries to introduce aspartate as a negative design element into the antibody paratope. The antibody-combining site was amenable to aspartate substitution at numerous positions within the antigen binding loops and one variant, Tyr(L93) Asp/His(L94) Asp/Thr(H100b) Asp, possessed high solubility (>100 mg/ml). Furthermore, the mutations decreased nonspecific interactions measured by column interaction chromatography and ELISA in the multivalent antibody format while maintaining high affinity to the antigen. Structural determination of the antibody-antigen complex revealed that the aspartate-permissive residues formed a polar ring around the structural and functional paratope, recapitulating the canonical feature of naturally occurring protein-protein interactions. This observation may inform future strategies for the design and engineering of molecular recognition.