Sortase-catalyzed in vitro functionalization of a HER2-specific recombinant Fab for tumor targeting of the plant cytotoxin gelonin

mAbs, 2013, DOI:10.4161/mabs.27444, Volume 6, Issue 2, published on 09.12.2013
mAbs, online article
We report on the preparation of a new type of immunotoxin via in vitro ligation of the αHer2 antigen binding fragment (Fab) of the clinically-validated antibody trastuzumab to the plant toxin gelonin, employing catalysis by the bacterial enzyme sortase A (SrtA). The αHer2 Fab was fused with the extended SrtA recognition motif LPET↓GLEH6 at the C-terminus of its heavy chain, thereby preventing interference with antigen binding, while the toxin was equipped with a Gly2 sequence at its N-terminus, distant to the catalytically active site in the C-terminal region. Site-specific in vitro transpeptidation led to a novel antibody-toxin conjugate wherein gelonin had effectively replaced the Fc region of a conventional (monomerized) immunoglobulin. After optimization of reaction conditions and incubation time, the resulting Fab-Gelonin ligation product was purified to homogeneity in a two-step procedure by means of Strep-Tactin affinity chromatography—utilizing the Strep-tag II appended to gelonin—and size exclusion chromatography. Binding activity of the immunotoxin for the Her2 ectodomain was indistinguishable from the unligated Fab as measured by real-time surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy. Specific cytotoxic potency of Fab-Gelonin was demonstrated against two Her2-positive cell lines, resulting in EC50 values of ~1 nM or lower, indicating a 1000-fold enhanced cell-killing activity compared with gelonin itself. Thus, our strategy provides a convenient route to the modular construction of functional immunotoxins from Fabs of established tumor-specific antibodies with gelonin or related proteotoxins, also avoiding the elevated biosafety levels that would be mandatory for the direct biotechnological preparation of corresponding fusion proteins.  

TU München
Helmholtz München
MPI of Neurobiology
MPI of Biochemistry