Rational and combinatorial protein engineering for vaccine delivery and drug targeting

Sammanfattning: This thesis describes recombinant proteins that have been generated by rational and combinatorial protein engineering strategies for use in subunit vaccine delivery and tumor targeting.In a first series of studies, recombinant methods for incorporating immunogens into an adjuvant formulation, e.g. immunostimulating complexes (iscoms), were evaluated. Protein immunogens, which are not typically immunogenic in themselves, are normally administered with an adjuvant to improve their immunogenicity. To accomplish iscom incorporation of a Toxoplasma gondii surface antigen through hydrophobic interaction, lipids were added either in vivo via E. coli expression, or in vitro via interaction of an introduced hexahistidyl (His6) peptide and a chelating lipid. The possibility of exploiting the strong interaction between biotin and streptavidin was also explored, in order to couple a Neospora caninum surface antigen to iscom matrix, i.e. iscom particles without any antigen. Subsequent analyses confirmed that the immunogens were successfully incorporated into iscoms by the investigated strategies. In addition, immunization of mice with the recombinant Neospora antigen NcSRS2, associated with iscoms through the biotin-streptavidin interaction, induced specific antibodies to native NcSRS2 and reduced clinical symptoms following challenge infection. The systems described in this thesis might offer convenient and efficient methods for incorporating recombinant immunogens into adjuvant formulations that might be considered for the generation of future recombinant subunit vaccines.In a second series of studies, Affibody® (affibody) ligands directed to the extracellular domain of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/neu), which is known to be overexpressed in ? 20-30% of breast cancers, were isolated by phage display in vitro selection from a combinatorial protein library based on the 58 amino acid residue staphylococcal protein A-derived Z domain. Biosensor analyses demonstrated that one of the variants from the phage selection, denoted His6-ZHER2/neu:4, selectively bound with nanomolar affinity (KD ? 50 nM) to the extracellular domain of HER2/neu (HER2-ECD) at a different site than the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab. In order to exploit avidity effects, a bivalent affibody ligand was constructed by head-to-tail dimerization, resulting in a 15.6 kDa affibody ligand, termed His6-(ZHER2/neu:4)2, that was shown to have an improved apparent affinity to HER2-ECD (KD ? 3 nM) compared to the monovalent affibody. Moreover, radiolabeled monovalent and bivalent affibody ligands showed specific binding in vitro to native HER2/neu molecules expressed in human cancer cells. Biodistribution studies in mice carrying SKOV-3 xenografted tumors revealed that significant amounts of radioactivity were specifically targeted to the tumors in vivo, and the tumors could easily be visualized with a gamma camera. These results suggest that affibody ligands would be interesting candidates for specific tumor targeting in clinical applications, such as in vivo imaging and radiotherapy.