Protein engineering, design & selection : PEDS

Optimizing recombinant antibodies for intracellular function using hitchhiker-mediated survival selection.

PMID 25225416


The 'hitchhiker' mechanism of the bacterial twin-arginine translocation pathway has previously been adapted as a genetic selection for detecting pairwise protein interactions in the cytoplasm of living Escherichia coli cells. Here, we extended this method, called FLI-TRAP, for rapid isolation of intracellular antibodies (intrabodies) in the single-chain Fv format that possess superior traits simply by demanding bacterial growth on high concentrations of antibiotic. Following just a single round of survival-based enrichment using FLI-TRAP, variants of an intrabody against the dimerization domain of the yeast Gcn4p transcription factor were isolated having significantly greater intracellular stability that translated to yield enhancements of >10-fold. Likewise, an intrabody specific for the non-amyloid component region of α-synuclein was isolated that has ~8-fold improved antigen-binding affinity. Collectively, our results illustrate the potential of the FLI-TRAP method for intracellular stabilization and affinity maturation of intrabodies, all without the need for purification or immobilization of the antigen.