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Antibodies commonly accumulate charged mutations in their complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) during affinity maturation to enhance electrostatic interactions. However, charged mutations can mediate non-specific interactions, and it is unclear to what extent CDRs can accumulate charged residues to increase antibody affinity without compromising specificity. This is especially concerning for positively charged CDR mutations that are linked to antibody polyspecificity. To better understand antibody affinity/specificity trade-offs, we have selected single-chain antibody fragments specific for the negatively charged and hydrophobic Alzheimer's amyloid β peptide using weak and stringent selections for antibody specificity. Antibody variants isolated using weak selections for specificity were enriched in arginine CDR mutations and displayed low specificity. Alanine-scanning mutagenesis revealed that the affinities of these antibodies were strongly dependent on their arginine mutations. Antibody variants isolated using stringent selections for specificity were also enriched in arginine CDR mutations, but these antibodies possessed significant improvements in specificity. Importantly, the affinities of the most specific antibodies were much less dependent on their arginine mutations, suggesting that over-reliance on arginine for affinity leads to reduced specificity. Structural modeling and molecular simulations reveal unique hydrophobic environments near the arginine CDR mutations. The more specific antibodies contained arginine mutations in the most hydrophobic portions of the CDRs, whereas the less specific antibodies contained arginine mutations in more hydrophilic regions. These findings demonstrate that arginine mutations in antibody CDRs display context-dependent impacts on specificity and that affinity/specificity trade-offs are governed by the relative contribution of arginine CDR residues to the overall antibody affinity. © 2017 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.


Kathryn E Tiller, Lijuan Li, Sandeep Kumar, Mark C Julian, Shekhar Garde, Peter M Tessier. Arginine mutations in antibody complementarity-determining regions display context-dependent affinity/specificity trade-offs. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2017 Oct 06;292(40):16638-16652

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PMID: 28778924

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