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J Biomol Screen. 2016 Jan;21(1):12-23. doi: 10.1177/1087057115613270. Epub 2015 Oct 30.

High-Throughput Screening for Internalizing Antibodies by Homogeneous Fluorescence Imaging of a pH-Activated Probe.

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Genmab, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Genmab, Utrecht, the Netherlands Department of Immunohematology and Blood Transfusion, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Genmab, Utrecht, the Netherlands


Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) represent a rapidly growing class of biotherapeutics that deliver drugs specifically to target cells by binding of the antibody component to surface receptors. The majority of ADCs require receptor internalization depending on intrinsic features of the specific ADC-antigen interaction. The development of potent ADCs would greatly benefit from the identification of efficiently internalizing antibodies at early stages of discovery. We developed a highly sensitive and rapid antibody internalization assay using an indirect Cypher5E label. The pH-activated CypHer5E label becomes fluorescent upon internalization into the acidic environment of endocytic organelles, whereas background fluorescence of noninternalized CypHer5E is minimal. The pH-dependency of the CypHer5E signal enables robust discrimination of antibody internalization from surface binding. The favorable signal-over-background ratio allows a homogeneous assay design with high-throughput fluorescence imaging in 384- and 1536-well formats. The biophysical readout of the primary internalization event substantially shortens incubation times compared to killing assays using toxin internalization. The assay was validated with tumor-relevant targets, including receptor tyrosine kinases (EGFR and HER2) and a class II cytokine receptor (TF) expressed by A431, AU565, and SKOV-3 cells and transient expression systems (CHO-S). Our method enables functional screening of large antibody libraries to identify therapeutic antibody candidates with internalization characteristics favorable for the development of ADCs.


antibody internalization; antibody-drug conjugates; high-throughput screening; homogenous assay; pH-dependent dye

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