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Cancer Res. 2000 Nov 15;60(22):6434-40.

Targeting of bivalent anti-ErbB2 diabody antibody fragments to tumor cells is independent of the intrinsic antibody affinity.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco 94110, USA.


In immunodeficient mice antitumor single-chain Fv (scFv) molecules penetrate tumors rapidly and have rapid serum clearance, leading to excellent tumor:normal organ ratios. However, the absolute quantity of scFv retained in the tumor is low due to rapid serum clearance and monovalent scFv binding. We previously demonstrated that the presence of an additional binding site prolongs in vitro and in vivo association of scFv-based molecules with tumor cells expressing relevant antigen. The contribution of the intrinsic affinity of each component scFv to the association between a dimeric scFv and its target antigen is largely unknown. Here, we have constructed bivalent diabody molecules from three affinity mutants of the human anti-ErbB2 (HER2/neu) scFv molecule C6.5 by shortening the peptide linker between the heavy (VH) and light (VL) chains variable domains from 15 to 5 amino acids. The shorter linker prevents intramolecular pairing of VH and VL, resulting in intermolecular pairing and creation of a dimeric Mr 50,000 molecule with two antigen-binding sites. The scFv used to create the diabodies span a 133-fold range of affinity for the same epitope of ErbB2 [133 nM (C6G98A), 25 nM (C6.5), and 1 nM (C6ML3-9)] and differ by only one to three amino acids. Diabody binding kinetics were determined by surface plasmon resonance on the immobilized ErbB2 extracellular domain. The association rate constants obtained for each diabody molecule were similar to that of the parental (component) scFv. However, the dissociation rate constants obtained for the bivalent diabodies were up to 15-fold slower. The magnitude of the decrease in the bivalent dissociation rate constant was inversely proportional to the monovalent interaction, ranging from only 3-fold for that of the C6ML3-9 diabody to 15-fold for the C6G98A diabody. This resulted in only a 22-fold difference in bivalent affinity, compared with a 133-fold difference in affinity for the respective scFv. Equilibrium-binding constants obtained by surface plasmon resonance correlated well with the equilibrium-binding constants determined in vitro on ErbB2 overexpressing cells. Biodistribution studies were performed in scid mice bearing established SKOV3 tumors. At 24 h, 3-37-fold more diabody was retained in tumor compared with the parental scFv monomers. This likely results from a higher apparent affinity, because of bivalent binding, and a slower serum clearance. Surprisingly, the differences in affinity between diabodies did not result in differences in quantitative tumor retention or tumor to blood ratios. In fact, the diabody constructed from the lowest affinity scFv exhibited the best tumor-targeting properties. We conclude that, above a threshold affinity, other factors regulate quantitative tumor retention. In addition, straightforward dimerization of a low-affinity scFv leads to significantly greater tumor localization than does exhaustive scFv affinity maturation.

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