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Blood. 2006 Feb 1;107(3):1070-7. Epub 2005 Oct 13.

Generation of biologically active linear and cyclic peptides has revealed a unique fine specificity of rituximab and its possible cross-reactivity with acid sphingomyelinase-like phosphodiesterase 3b precursor.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Oncology (DIMO), University of Bari Medical School, Bari, Italy.


Heterogeneity of the effector functions displayed by rituximab and other anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) apparently recognizing the same CD20 epitope suggests that additional mechanisms, probably related to mAb fine specificity, are responsible for B-cell depletion. To improve our understanding of rituximab's function, its fine specificity was investigated by means of phage display peptide library (PDPL)-expressing 7-mer cyclic (c7c) or 7-/12-mer linear peptides. Rituximab-specific c7c PDPL-derived clone insert sequences expressed the motif A(S)NPS overlapping the human CD20 170ANPS173. P172 was the most critical for rituximab binding, since its replacement with S172 (of mouse CD20) abolished the reactivity. The WPXWLE motif expressed by the linear PDPL-derived clone insert sequences could only be aligned to the reverse-oriented 161WPXWLE156 of acid sphingomyelinase-like phosphodiesterase 3b precursor (ASMLPD), though linear peptides bearing WPXWLE competed with cyclic ones for rituximab-paratope binding. Anti-CD20 mAb 1F5 only displayed a reactivity profile similar to that of rituximab, which also reacted with ASMLPD-derived peptides. Peptides induced antibodies with specificity and effector functions similar to those of rituximab. Our results show a unique fine specificity of rituximab, define the molecular basis for the lack of rituximab reactivity with mouse CD20 (mCD20), and the potential of targeting CD20 in an active immunotherapy setting. A possible rituximab interaction with ASMLPD is suggested.

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