Multivalency of targeting ligands provides significantly increased binding strength towards their molecular targets. Here, we report the development of a novel heptameric targeting system, with general applications, constructed by fusing a target-binding domain with the heptamerization domain of the Archaeal RNA binding protein Sm1 through a flexible hinge peptide. The previously reported affibody molecules against EGFR and HER2, ZEGFR and ZHER2, were used as target binding moieties. The fusion molecules were highly expressed in E. coli as soluble proteins and efficiently self-assembled into multimeric targeting ligands with the heptamer as the predominant form. We demonstrated that the heptameric molecules were resistant to protease-mediated digestion or heat- and SDS-induced denaturation. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) analysis showed that both heptameric ZEGFR and ZHER2 ligands have a significantly enhanced binding strength to their target receptors with a nearly 100 to 1000 fold increase relative to the monomeric ligands. Cellular binding assays showed that heptameric ligands maintained their target-binding specificities similar to the monomeric forms towards their respective receptor. The non-toxic property of each heptameric ligand was demonstrated by the cell proliferation assay. In general, the heptamerization strategy we describe here could be applied to the facile and efficient engineering of other protein domain- or short peptide-based affinity molecules to acquire significantly improved target-binding strengths with potential applications in the targeted delivery of various imaging or therapeutic agents. © 2012 Kim et al.
Kim, D., Yan, Y., Valencia, C. A., & Liu, R. (2012). Heptameric targeting ligands against EGFR and HER2 with high stability and avidity. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0043077