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J Immunol. 1999 Feb 15;162(4):2129-36.

Functional characterization of the somatic hypermutation process leading to antibody D1.3, a high affinity antibody directed against lysozyme.

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Protein Engineering Group (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-URA 1129), Unité de Biochimie Cellulaire, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The impact of somatic hypermutation on the affinity of Abs directed against protein Ags remains poorly understood. We chose as a model the secondary response Ab D1.3 directed against hen egg lysozyme. During the maturation process leading to this Ab, five replacement somatic mutations occurred. After reconstituting the germline Ab from which D1.3 originated, we assessed the energetic and kinetic importance of each of the somatic mutations, individually or combined, using the BIAcore apparatus. We found that the mutations induced an overall 60-fold improvement of affinity, principally due to a decrease in the kinetic rate of dissociation. We showed that their effects were additive and context independent; therefore, in the case of D1.3, the order in which somatic mutations were introduced and selected is unimportant. Interestingly, most of the affinity improvement was due to a single somatic mutation (Asn50-->Tyr in VL), involving a residue that belongs to the functional interface between Ab D1.3 and lysozyme. This replacement could either establish new Van der Waals contacts between the Ab and the Ag or help stabilize the conformation of a closely situated crucial residue of the Ab paratope. The four other mutations played only a marginal part in affinity maturation; potential reasons for which these mutations were nevertheless selected are discussed.

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