High-Affinity RGD-Knottin Peptide as a New Tool for Rapid Evaluation of the Binding Strength of Unlabeled RGD-Peptides to αvβ3, αvβ5, and α5β1 Integrin Receptors

We describe a highly sensitive competition ELISA to measure integrin-binding of RGD-peptides in high-throughput without using cells, ECM-proteins, or antibodies. The assay measures (nonlabeled) RGD-peptides’ ability to inhibit binding of a biotinylated “knottin”-RGD peptide to surface-immobilized integrins and, thus, enables quantification of the binding strength of high-, medium-, and low-affinity RGD-binders. We introduced the biotinylated knottin-RGD peptide instead of biotinylated cyclo[RGDfK] (as reported by Piras et al.), as integrin-binding was much stronger and clearly detectable for all three integrins. In order to maximize sensitivity and cost-efficiency, we first optimized several parameters, such as integrin-immobilization levels, knottin-RGD concentration, buffer compositions, type of detection tag (biotin, His- or cMyc-tag), and spacer length. We thereby identified two key factors, that is, (i) the critical spacer length (longer than Gly) and (ii) the presence of Ca2+ and Mg2+ in all incubation and washing buffers. Binding of knottin-RGD peptide was strongest for αvβ3 but also detectable for both αvβ5 and α5β1, while binding of biotinylated cyclo[RGDfK] was very weak and only detectable for αvβ3. For assay validation, we finally determined IC50 values for three unlabeled peptides, that is: (i) linear GRGDS, (ii) cyclo[RGDfK], and (iii) the knottin-RGD itself for binding to three different integrin receptors (αvβ3, αvβ5, α5β1). Major benefits of the novel assay are (i) the extremely low consumption of integrin (50 ng/peptide), (ii) the fact that neither antibodies/ECM-proteins nor integrin-expressing cells are required for detection, and (iii) its suitability for high-throughput screening of (RGD-)­peptide libraries.