Development of a structure-based computational simulation to optimize the blocking efficacy of pro-antibodies†
The on-target toxicity of monoclonal antibodies (Abs) is mainly due to the fact that Abs cannot distinguish target antigens (Ags) expressed in disease regions from those in normal tissues during systemic administration. In order to overcome this issue, we “copied” an autologous Ab hinge as an “Ab lock” and “pasted” it on the binding site of the Ab by connecting a protease substrate and linker in between to generate a pro-Ab, which can be specifically activated in the disease region to enhance Ab selectivity and reduce side effects. Previously, we reported that 70% of pro-Abs can achieve more than 100-fold blocking ability compared to the parental Abs. However, 30% of pro-Abs do not have such efficient blocking ability. This is because the same Ab lock linker cannot be applied to every Ab due to the differences in the complementarity-determining region (CDR) loops. Here we designed a method which uses structure-based computational simulation (MSCS) to optimize the blocking ability of the Ab lock for all Ab drugs. MSCS can precisely adjust the amino acid composition of the linker between the Ab lock and Ab drug with the assistance of molecular simulation. We selected αPD-1, αIL-1β, αCTLA-4 and αTNFα Ab as models and attached the Ab lock with various linkers (L1 to L7) to form pro-Abs by MSCS, respectively. The resulting cover rates of the Ab lock with various linkers compared to the Ab drug were in the range 28.33–42.33%. The recombinant pro-Abs were generated by MSCS prediction in order to verify the application of molecular simulation for pro-Ab development. The binding kinetics effective concentrations (EC-50) for αPD-1 (200-250-fold), αIL-1β (152-186-fold), αCTLA-4 (68-150-fold) and αTNFα Ab (20-123-fold) were presented as the blocking ability of pro-Ab compared to the Ab drug. Further, there was a positive correlation between cover rate and blocking ability of all pro-Ab candidates. The results suggested that MSCS was able to predict the Ab lock linker most suitable for application to αPD-1, αIL-1β, αCTLA-4 and αTNFα Ab to form pro-Abs efficiently. The success of MSCS in optimizing the pro-Ab can aid the development of next-generation pro-Ab drugs to significantly improve Ab-based therapies and thus patients' quality of life.