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Nucl Med Biol. 2013 Apr;40(3):378-86. doi: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2012.12.009. Epub 2013 Jan 26.

Evaluation of backbone-cyclized HER2-binding 2-helix affibody molecule for in vivo molecular imaging.

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Unit of Biomedical Radiation Sciences, Rudbeck Laboratory, Uppsala University, S-751 81 Uppsala, Sweden.



Affibody molecules, small scaffold proteins, have demonstrated an appreciable potential as imaging probes. Affibody molecules are composed of three alpha-helices. Helices 1 and 2 are involved in molecular recognition, while helix 3 provides stability. The size of Affibody molecules can be reduced by omitting the third alpha-helix and cross-linking the two remaining, providing a smaller molecule with better extravasation and quicker clearance of unbound tracer. The goal of this study was to develop a novel 2-helix Affibody molecule based on backbone cyclization by native chemical ligation (NCL).


The HER2-targeting NCL-cyclized Affibody molecule ZHER2:342min has been designed, synthesized and site-specifically conjugated with a DOTA chelator. DOTA-ZHER2:342min was labeled with (111)In and (68)Ga. The binding affinity of DOTA-ZHER2:342min was evaluated in vitro. The targeting properties of (111)In- and (68)Ga-DOTA-ZHER2:342min were evaluated in mice bearing SKOV-3 xenografts and compared with the properties of (111)In- and (68)Ga-labeled PEP09239, a DOTA-conjugated 2-helix Affibody analogue cyclized by a homocysteine disulfide bridge.


The dissociation constant (KD) for DOTA-ZHER2:342min binding to HER2 was 18nM according to SPR measurements. DOTA-ZHER2:342min was labeled with (111)In and (68)Ga. Both conjugates demonstrated bi-phasic binding kinetics to HER2-expressing cells, with KD1 in low nanomolar range. Both variants demonstrated specific uptake in HER2-expressing xenografts. Tumor-to-blood ratios at 2h p.i. were 6.1±1.3 for (111)In- DOTA-ZHER2:342min and 4.6±0.7 for (68)Ga-DOTA-ZHER2:342min. However, the uptake of DOTA-ZHER2:342min in lung, liver and spleen was appreciably higher than the uptake of PEP09239-based counterparts.


Native chemical ligation enables production of a backbone-cyclized HER2-binding 2-helix Affibody molecule (ZHER2:342min) with low nanomolar target affinity and specific tumor uptake.

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