Protein ligand charge can impact physiological delivery with charge reduction often benefiting performance. Yet neutralizing mutations can be detrimental to protein function. Herein, three approaches are evaluated to introduce charged-to-neutral mutations of three cations and three anions within an affibody engineered to bind epidermal growth factor receptor. These approaches—combinatorial library sorting or consensus design, based on natural homologs or library-sorted mutants—are used to identify mutations with favorable affinity, stability, and recombinant yield. Consensus design, based on 942 affibody homologs, yielded a mutant of modest function (Kd = 11 ±4 nM, Tm = 62°C, and yield = 4.0 ± 0.8 mg/L as compared to 5.3 ± 1.7 nM, 71°C, and 3.5 ± 0.3 mg/L for the parental affibody). Extension of consensus design to 10 additional mutants exhibited varied performance including a substantially improved mutant (Kd = 6.9 ± 1.4 nM, Tm = 71°C, and 12.7 ± 0.9 mg/L yield). Sorting a homolog-based combinatorial library of 7 × 105 mutants generated a distribution of mutants with lower stability and yield, but did identify one strongly binding variant (Kd = 1.2 ± 0.3 nM, Tm = 69°C, and 6.0 ± 0.4 mg/L yield). Synthetic consensus design, based on the amino acid distribution in functional library mutants, yielded higher affinities (P = 0.05) with comparable stabilities and yields. The best of four analyzed clones had Kd = 1.7 ± 0.5 nM, Tm = 68°C, and 7.0 ± 0.5 mg/L yield. While all three approaches were effective in creating targeted affibodies with six charged-to-neutral mutations, synthetic consensus design proved to be the most robust. Synthetic consensus design provides a valuable tool for ligand engineering, particularly in the context of charge manipulation. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2016;113: 1628–1638.
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© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- consensus design
- epidermal growth factor receptor