Protein engineering to explore and improve affinity ligands

Abstract: In order to produce predictable and robust systems forprotein purification and detection, well characterized, small,folded domains descending from bacterial receptors have beenused. These bacterial receptors, staphylococcal protein A (SPA)and streptococcal protein G (SPG), possess high affinity to IgGand / or HSA. They are composed of repetitive units in whicheach one binds the ligand independently. The domains foldindependently and are very stable. Since the domains also havewellknown three-dimensional structures and do not containcysteine residues, they are very suitable as frameworks forfurther protein engineering.Streptococcal protein G (SPG) is a multidomain proteinpresent on the cell surface ofStreptococcus. X-ray crystallography has been used todetermine the binding site of the Ig-binding domain. In thisthesis the region responsible for the HSA affinity of ABD3 hasbeen determined by directed mutagenesis followed by functionaland structural analysis. The analysis shows that the HSAbindinginvolves residues mainly in the second α-helix.Most protein-based affinity chromatography media are verysensitive towards alkaline treatment, which is the preferredmethod for regeneration and removal of contaminants from thepurification devices in industrial applications. Here, aprotein engineering strategy has been used to improve thetolerance to alkaline conditions of different domains fromprotein G, ABD3 and C2. Amino acids known to be susceptibletowards high pH were substituted for less alkali susceptibleresidues. The new, engineered variants of C2 and ABD shownhigher stability towards alkaline pH. Also, very important forthe potential use as affinity ligands, these mutated variantsretained the secondary structure and the affinity to HSA andIgG, respectively. Moreover, dimerization was performed toinvestigate whether a higher binding capacity could be obtainedby multivalency. For ABD, binding studies showed that divalentligands coupled using non-directed chemistry demonstrated anincreased molar binding capacity compared to monovalentligands. In contrast, equal molar binding capacities wereobserved for both types of ligands when using a directed ligandcoupling chemistry involving the introduction and recruitmentof a unique C-terminal cysteine residue.The staphylococcal protein A-derived domain Z is also a wellknown and thoroughly characterized fusion partner widely usedin affinity chromatography systems. This domain is consideredto be relatively tolerant towards alkaline conditions.Nevertheless, it is desirable to further improve the stabilityin order to enable an SPA-based affinity medium to withstandeven longer exposure to the harsh conditions associated withcleaning in place (CIP) procedures. For this purpose adifferent protein engineering strategy was employed. Smallchanges in stability due to the mutations would be difficult toassess. Hence, in order to enable detection of improvementsregarding the alkaline resistance of the Z domain, a by-passmutagenesis strategy was utilized, where a mutated structurallydestabilized variant, Z(F30A) was used as a surrogateframework. All eight asparagines in the domain were exchangedone-by-one. The residues were all shown to have differentimpact on the alkaline tolerance of the domain. By exchangingasparagine 23 for a threonine we were able to remarkablyincrease the stability of the Z(F30A)-domain towards alkalineconditions. Also, when grafting the N23T mutation to the Zscaffold we were able to detect an increased tolerance towardsalkaline treatment compared to the native Z molecule. In allcases, the most sensitive asparagines were found to be locatedin the loops region.In summary, the work presented in this thesis shows theusefulness of protein engineering strategies, both to explorethe importance of different amino acids regarding stability andfunctionality and to improve the characteristics of aprotein.Keywords:binding, affinity, human serum albumin (HSA),albumin-binding domain (ABD), affinity chromatography,deamidation, protein A, stabilization, Z-domain, capacity,protein G, cleaning-in-place (CIP), protein engineering, C2receptor.