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J Biotechnol. 2001 Jun;74(4):257-75.

'Anticalins': a new class of engineered ligand-binding proteins with antibody-like properties.

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Lehrstuhl für Biologische Chemie, Technische Universität München, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.


The development of soluble receptor proteins that recognise given target molecules--ranging from small chemical compounds to macromolecular structures at a cell surface, for example--is of ever increasing importance in the life sciences and biotechnology. For the past century this area of application was dominated by antibodies, which were traditionally generated via immunisation of animals but have recently also become available by means of protein engineering methods. The so-called 'anticalins' offer an alternative type of ligand-binding proteins, which has been constructed on the basis of lipocalins as a scaffold. The central element of this protein architecture is a beta-barrel structure of eight antiparallel strands, which supports four loops at its open end. These loops form the natural binding site of the lipocalins and can be reshaped in vitro by extensive amino acid replacement, thus creating novel binding specificities. The bilin-binding protein (BBP) was employed as a model system for the preparation of a random library with 16 selectively mutagenized residues. Using bacterial phagemid display and colony screening techniques, several lipocalin variants--termed anticalins--have been selected from this library, exhibiting binding activity for compounds like fluorescein or digoxigenin. Anticalins possess high affinity and specificity for their prescribed ligands as well as fast binding kinetics, so that their functional properties are similar to those of antibodies. Compared with them, they exhibit however several advantages, including a smaller size, composition of a single polypeptide chain, and a simple set of four hypervariable loops that can be easily manipulated at the genetic level. Apart from haptenic compounds as targets, anticalins should also be able to recognise macromolecular antigens, provided that the random library is accordingly designed. Hence, they should not only serve as valuable reagents for bioanalytical purposes, but may also have a potential in replacing antibodies for medical therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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