Small robust affinity proteins have shown great potential for use in therapy, in vivo diagnostics, and various biotechnological applications. However, the affinity proteins often need to be modified or functionalized to be successful in many of these applications. The use of chemical synthesis for the production of the proteins can allow for site-directed functionalization not achievable by recombinant routes, including incorporation of unnatural building blocks. This thesis focuses on chemical engineering of Affibody molecules and an albumin binding domain (ABD), which both are three-helix bundle proteins of 58 and 46 amino acids, respectively, possible to synthesize using solid phase peptide synthesis (SPPS).
In the first project, an alternative synthetic route for Affibody molecules using a fragment condensation approach was investigated. This was achieved by using native chemical ligation (NCL) for the condensation reaction, yielding a native peptide bond at the site of ligation. The constant third helix of Affibody molecules enables a combinatorial approach for the preparation of a panel of different Affibody molecules, demonstrated by the synthesis of three different Affibody molecules using the same helix 3 (paper I).
In the next two projects, an Affibody molecule targeting the amyloid-beta peptide, involved in Alzheimer’s disease, was engineered. Initially the N-terminus of the Affibody molecule was shortened resulting in a considerably higher synthetic yield and higher binding affinity to the target peptide (paper II). This improved variant of the Affibody molecule was then further engineered in the next project, where a fluorescently silent variant was developed and successfully used as a tool to lock the amyloid-beta peptide in a β-hairpin conformation during studies of copper binding using fluorescence spectroscopy (paper III).
In the last two projects, synthetic variants of ABD, interesting for use as in vivo half-life extending partners to therapeutic proteins, were engineered. In the first project the possibility to covalently link a bioactive peptide, GLP-1, to the domain was investigated. This was achieved by site-specific thioether bridge-mediated cross-linking of the molecules via a polyethylene glycol (PEG)-based spacer. The conjugate showed retained high binding affinity to human serum albumin (HSA) and a biological activity comparable to a reference GLP-1 peptide (paper IV). In the last project, the possibility to increase the proteolytic stability of ABD through intramolecular cross-linking, to facilitate its use in e.g. oral drug delivery applications, was investigated. A tethered variant of ABD showed increased thermal stability and a considerably higher proteolytic stability towards pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin, three important proteases found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (paper V).
Taken together, the work presented in this thesis illustrates the potential of using chemical synthesis approaches in protein engineering.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , viii, 79 p.
Affibody molecules, albumin binding domain, ligation, protein synthesis, solid phase peptide synthesis
2014-03-07, FR4 (Oskar Klein), AlbaNova Universitetscentrum, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)