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Nat Biotechnol. 2002 Sep;20(9):908-13. Epub 2002 Aug 5.

Rational cytokine design for increased lifetime and enhanced potency using pH-activated "histidine switching".

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology Processing Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.


We describe a method for the rational design of more effective therapeutic proteins using amino acid substitutions that reduce receptor binding affinity in intracellular endosomal compartments, thereby leading to increased recycling in the ligand-sorting process and consequently resulting in longer half-life in extracellular medium. We demonstrate this approach for granulocyte colony-stimulating factor by using computationally predicted histidine substitutions that switch protonation states between cell-surface and endosomal pH. Molecular modeling of binding electrostatics indicates two different single-histidine mutants that fulfill our design requirements; experimental assays demonstrate that each mutant indeed exhibits an order-of-magnitude increase in medium half-life along with enhanced potency due to increased endocytic recycling.

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