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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Structural and Functional Characterization of a Hole–Hole Homodimer Variant in a “Knob-Into-Hole” Bispecific Antibody


Bispecific antibodies have great potential to be the next-generation biotherapeutics due to their ability to simultaneously recognize two different targets. Compared to conventional monoclonal antibodies, knob-into-hole bispecific antibodies face unique challenges in production and characterization due to the increase in variant possibilities, such as homodimerization in covalent and noncovalent forms. In this study, a storage- and pH-sensitive hydrophobic interaction chromatography (HIC) profile change was observed for the hole-hole homodimer, and the multiple HIC peaks were explored and shown to be conformational isomers. We combined traditional analytical methods with hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX MS), native mass spectrometry, and negative-staining electron microscopy to comprehensively characterize the hole-hole homodimer. HDX MS revealed conformational changes at the resolution of a few amino acids overlapping the CH2-CH3 domain interface. Conformational heterogeneity was also assessed by HDX MS isotopic distribution. The hole-hole homodimer was demonstrated to adopt a more homogeneous conformational distribution during storage. This conformational change is likely caused by a lack of CH3 domain dimerization (due to the three "hole" point mutations), resulting in a unique storage- and pH-dependent conformational destabilization and refolding of the hole-hole homodimer Fc. Compared with the hole-hole homodimer under different storage conditions, the bispecific heterodimer, guided by the knob-into-hole assembly, proved to be a stable conformation with homogeneous distribution, confirming its high quality as a desired therapeutic. Functional studies by antigen binding and neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) binding correlated very well with the structural characterization. Comprehensive interpretation of the results has provided a better understanding of both the homodimer variant and the bispecific molecule.

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