Modular Conjugation of a Potent Anti-HER2 Immunotoxin Using Coassociating Peptides
Published on Sep 30, 2020in Bioconjugate Chemistry4.031
· DOI :10.1021/ACS.BIOCONJCHEM.0C00482
Immunotoxins are emerging candidates for cancer therapeutics. These biomolecules consist of a cell-targeting protein combined to a polypeptide toxin. Associations of both entities can be achieved either chemically by covalent bonds or genetically creating fusion proteins. However, chemical agents can affect the activity and/or stability of the conjugate proteins, and additional purification steps are often required to isolate the final conjugate from unwanted byproducts. As for fusion proteins, they often suffer from low solubility and yield. In this report, we describe a straightforward conjugation process to generate an immunotoxin using coassociating peptides (named K3 and E3), originating from the tetramerization domain of p53. To that end, a nanobody targeting the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (nano-HER2) and a protein toxin fragment from Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A (TOX) were genetically fused to the E3 and K3 peptides. Entities were produced separately in Escherichia coli in soluble forms and at high yields. The nano-HER2 fused to the E3 or K3 helixes (nano-HER2-E3 and nano-HER2-K3) and the coassembled immunotoxins (nano-HER2-K3E3-TOX and nano-HER2-E3K3-TOX) presented binding specificity on HER2-overexpressing cells with relative binding constants in the low nanomolar to picomolar range. Both toxin modules (E3-TOX and K3-TOX) and the combined immunotoxins exhibited similar cytotoxicity levels compared to the toxin alone (TOX). Finally, nano-HER2-K3E3-TOX and nano-HER2-E3K3-TOX evaluated on various breast cancer cells were highly potent and specific to killing HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells with IC50 values in the picomolar range. Altogether, we demonstrate that this noncovalent conjugation method using two coassembling peptides can be easily implemented for the modular engineering of immunotoxins targeting different types of cancers.