Tailoring in vitro selection for a picomolar affinity human antibody directed against vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 for enhanced neutralizing activity

Dan Lu, Juqun Shen, Marie D Vil, Haifan Zhang, Xenia Jimenez, Peter Bohlen, Larry Witte, Zhenping Zhu
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2003 October 31, 278 (44): 43496-507
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors have been implicated in promoting solid tumor growth and metastasis via stimulating tumor-associated angiogenesis. We previously identified several fully human neutralizing anti-VEGF receptor 2 (or kinase inserting domain-containing receptor (KDR)) antibodies from a large antibody phage display library. These antibodies bind specifically to KDR, block VEGF/KDR interaction, and inhibit VEGF-induced proliferation of human endothelial cells and migration of KDR+ leukemia cells. Three of these antibodies, interestingly, share an identical heavy chain variable (VH) sequence. In this report, we constructed a new library comprising the single VH paired with the variable light chain (VL) repertoire obtained from the original naïve human library. Initial in vitro selection revealed that the single VH could pair with a number of different VL while retaining its specificity for KDR. However, a consensus VH/VL pair, clone 1121, was identified after three or four rounds of selection by tailoring the stringency of the panning conditions. Clone 1121 showed a >30-fold higher binding affinity to KDR (Kd, 100 pm) because of improvement on both association and dissociation constants and blocked VEGF/KDR interaction with an IC50 of approximately 1 nm, compared with that of 3-4 nm for the parent Fab fragments. Further, clone 1121 was more potent in inhibiting VEGF-stimulated KDR phosphorylation in endothelial cells. A binding epitope mapping study on clone 1121 and one of the parent clones, 2C6, demonstrated that both antibodies interacted with the third immunoglobulin domain within the extracellular region of KDR. Several peptide phage display libraries were utilized to further examine the fine binding specificities of the two antibodies. All of the 2C6-binding peptides are cysteine-constrained, whereas clone 1121 binds to both cysteine-constrained and linear peptides. It is noteworthy that most of the 2C6-binding peptides also cross-react with clone 1121, but none of the clone 1121-specific peptides binds to 2C6, indicating that clone 1121 retained part of the original binding epitope(s) of 2C6 while gaining new binding specificity. Taken together, our observation suggests that clone 1121 may have great clinical potential in anti-angiogenesis therapy. It further underscores the efforts to identify antibodies of high affinity for enhanced biological activities.

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