Immunogenicity is a major concern in drug development as anti-drug antibodies in many cases affect both patient safety and drug efficacy. Another concern is often the limited half-life of drugs, which can be altered by different chemical modifications, like acylation with fatty acids. However, acylation with fatty acids has been shown in some cases to modulate T cell activation. Therefore, to understand the role of acylation with fatty acids on immunogenicity we tested three immunogenic non-acylated peptides and 14 of their acylated analogues for binding to 26 common HLA class II alleles, and their ability to activate T cells in an ex vivo T cell assay. Changes in binding affinity associated with acylation with fatty acids were typically modest, though a significant decrease was observed for influenza HA acylated with a stearic acid, and affinities for DQ alleles were consistently increased. Importantly, we showed that for all three immunogenic peptides acylation with fatty acids decreased their capacity to activate T cells, a trend particularly evident with longer fatty acids typically positioned within the peptide HLA class II binding core region, or when closer to the C-terminus. With these results we have demonstrated that acylation with fatty acids of immunogenic peptides can lower their stimulatory capacity, which could be important knowledge for drug design and immunogenicity mitigation.
Schultz, H. S., Ostergaard, S., Sidney, J., Lamberth, K., & Sette, A. (2018). The effect of acylation with fatty acids and other modifications on HLA class II: Peptide binding and T cell stimulation for three model peptides. PLoS ONE, 13(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197407