Research Summary: High Affinity Antigen Recognition of the Dual Specific Variants of Herceptin Is Entropy-Driven in Spite of Structural Plasticity


The antigen-binding site of Herceptin, an anti-human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) antibody, was engineered to add a second specificity toward Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) to create a high affinity two-in-one antibody bH1. Crystal structures of bH1 in complex with either antigen showed that, in comparison to Herceptin, this antibody exhibited greater conformational variability, also called “structural plasticity”. Here, we analyzed the biophysical and thermodynamic properties of the dual specific variants of Herceptin to understand how a single antibody binds two unrelated protein antigens. We showed that while bH1 and the affinity-improved bH1-44, in particular, maintained many properties of Herceptin including binding affinity, kinetics and the use of residues for antigen recognition, they differed in the binding thermodynamics. The interactions of bH1 and its variants with both antigens were characterized by large favorable entropy changes whereas the Herceptin/HER2 interaction involved a large favorable enthalpy change. By dissecting the total entropy change and the energy barrier for dual interaction, we determined that the significant structural plasticity of the bH1 antibodies demanded by the dual specificity did not translate into the expected increase of entropic penalty relative to Herceptin. Clearly, dual antigen recognition of the Herceptin variants involves divergent antibody conformations of nearly equivalent energetic states. Hence, increasing the structural plasticity of an antigen-binding site without increasing the entropic cost may play a role for antibodies to evolve multi-specificity. Our report represents the first comprehensive biophysical analysis of a high affinity dual specific antibody binding two unrelated protein antigens, furthering our understanding of the thermodynamics that drive the vast antigen recognition capacity of the antibody repertoire.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 22-April-2011

Author(s): Bostrom J., Haber L., Koenig P., Kelley R., Fuh G.


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