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Chemical Diversification of Simple Synthetic Antibodies

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journal contribution
posted on 23.01.2021, 03:03 authored by Mariha Islam, Haixing P. Kehoe, Jacob B. Lissoos, Manjie Huang, Christopher E. Ghadban, Greg Berumen Sánchez, Hanan Z. Lane, James A. Van Deventer
Antibodies possess properties that make them valuable as therapeutics, diagnostics, and basic research tools. However, antibody chemical reactivity and covalent antigen binding are constrained, or even prevented, by the narrow range of chemistries encoded in canonical amino acids. In this work, we investigate strategies for leveraging an expanded range of chemical functionality using yeast displayed antibodies containing noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) in or near antibody complementarity determining regions (CDRs). To enable systematic characterization of the effects of ncAA incorporation on antibody function, we first investigated whether diversification of a single antibody loop would support the isolation of binding clones against immunoglobulins from three species. We constructed and screened a billion-member library containing canonical amino acid diversity and loop length diversity only within the third complementarity determining region of the heavy chain (CDR-H3). Isolated clones exhibited moderate affinities (double- to triple-digit nanomolar affinities) and, in several cases, single-species specificity, confirming that antibody specificity can be mediated by a single CDR. This constrained diversity enabled the utilization of additional CDRs for the installation of chemically reactive and photo-cross-linkable ncAAs. Binding studies of ncAA-substituted antibodies revealed that ncAA incorporation is reasonably well tolerated, with observed changes in affinity occurring as a function of ncAA side chain identity, substitution site, and the ncAA incorporation machinery used. Multiple azide-containing ncAAs supported copper-catalyzed azide–alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) and strain-promoted azide–alkyne cycloaddition (SPAAC) without the abrogation of binding function. Similarly, several alkyne substitutions facilitated CuAAC without the apparent disruption of binding. Finally, antibodies substituted with a photo-cross-linkable ncAA were evaluated for ultraviolet-mediated cross-linking on the yeast surface. Competition-based assays revealed position-dependent covalent linkages, strongly suggesting successful cross-linking. Key findings regarding CuAAC reactions and photo-cross-linking on the yeast surface were confirmed using soluble forms of ncAA-substituted clones. The consistency of findings on the yeast surface and in solution suggest that chemical diversification can be incorporated into yeast display screening approaches. Taken together, our results highlight the power of integrating the use of yeast display and ncAAs in search of proteins with “chemically augmented” binding functions. This includes strategies for systematically introducing small molecule functionality within binding protein structures and evaluating protein-based covalent target binding. The efficient preparation and chemical diversification of antibodies on the yeast surface open up new possibilities for discovering “drug-like” protein leads in high throughput.