Humanization of a highly stable single-chain antibody by structure-based antigen-binding site grafting

Maria Elena Villani, Veronica Morea, Valerio Consalvi, Roberta Chiaraluce, Angiola Desiderio, Eugenio Benvenuto, Marcello Donini

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The murine single-chain variable fragment F8 (scFv(F8)) is endowed with high intrinsic thermodynamic stability and can be functionally expressed in the reducing environment of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cytoplasm. The stability and intracellular functionality of this molecule can be ascribed mostly to its framework regions and are essentially independent of the specific sequence and structure of the supported antigen-binding site. Therefore, the scFv(F8) represents a suitable scaffold to construct stable scFv chimeric molecules against different antigens by in vitro evolution or antigen-binding site grafting. Thanks to the favourable pharmacokinetic properties associated to a high thermodynamic stability of antibody fragments, such scFv(F8) variants may be exploited for a wide range of biomedical applications, from in vivo diagnosis to therapy, as well as to interfere with the function of intracellular proteins and pathogens, and for functional genomics studies. However, the potential immunogenicity of the murine framework regions represents a limitation for their exploitation in therapeutic applications. To overcome this limitation, we humanized a derivative of the scFv(F8), the anti-lysozyme scFv(11E), which is endowed with even higher thermodynamic stability than the parent antibody. The humanization was carried out by substituting the framework residues differing from closely related VHand VLdomains of human origin with their human counterparts. Site-directed mutagenesis generated the fully humanized product and four intermediate scFvs, which were analyzed for protein expression and antigen binding. We found that the substitution Tyr 90 → Phe in the VHdomain dramatically reduced the bacterial expression of all mutants. The back-mutation of Phe H90 to Tyr led to the final humanized variant named scFv(H5)H90Tyr. This molecule comprises humanized VHand VLframework regions and is endowed with HEL-binding affinity, stability in human serum and functionality under reducing conditions comparable to the murine cognate antibody. Consequently, the humanized scFv(H5)H90Tyr represents a suitable scaffold onto which new specificities towards antigens of therapeutic interest can be engineered for biomedical applications. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2474 - 2485
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Immunology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology

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