The impact of drug loading and distribution on higher order structure and physical stability of an interchain cysteine-based antibody drug conjugate (ADC) has been studied. An IgG1 mAb was conjugated with a cytotoxic auristatin payload following the reduction of interchain disulfides. The 2-D LC-MS analysis shows that there is a preference for certain isomers within the various drug to antibody ratios (DARs). The physical stability of the unconjugated monoclonal antibody, the ADC, and isolated conjugated species with specific DAR, were compared using calorimetric, thermal, chemical denaturation and molecular modeling techniques, as well as techniques to assess hydrophobicity. The DAR was determined to have a significant impact on the biophysical properties and stability of the ADC. The CH2 domain was significantly perturbed in the DAR6 species, which was attributable to quaternary structural changes as assessed by molecular modeling. At accelerated storage temperatures, the DAR6 rapidly forms higher molecular mass species, whereas the DAR2 and the unconjugated mAb were largely stable. Chemical denaturation study indicates that DAR6 may form multimers while DAR2 and DAR4 primarily exist in monomeric forms in solution at ambient conditions. The physical state differences were correlated with a dramatic increase in the hydrophobicity and a reduction in the surface tension of the DAR6 compared to lower DAR species. Molecular modeling of the various DAR species and their conformers demonstrates that the auristatin-based linker payload directly contributes to the hydrophobicity of the ADC molecule. Higher order structural characterization provides insight into the impact of conjugation on the conformational and colloidal factors that determine the physical stability of cysteine-based ADCs, with implications for process and formulation development.
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