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High-level expression of a functional humanized anti-CTLA4 single-chain variable fragment antibody in Pichia pastoris

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The administration of antibodies against the cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) is a promising approach in the upregulation of immune responses in many cancers and infectious diseases. The single-chain variable fragment of antibody against CTLA4 is also useful in developing immunotoxins that might be used in the treatment of cancer, transplant rejection, and autoimmune diseases. Here, we report the production of a soluble and functional scFv antibody against CTLA4 by using Pichia pastoris as the expression system. The gene encoding scFv hS83 with an additional 6His-tag at the 5’-end was inserted into the expression vector pPIC9K. Then, the transformants were double-screened on plates containing 0.25 mg/mL and 1.5 mg/mL of neomycin G418 and many clones with different levels of G418-resistance were selected for further studies on expression. After induction by the addition of methanol, various levels of hS83 were detected in the supernatant of P. pastoris containing pPIC9K-hS83. Clones with low G418-resistance produced more hS83 than those with higher G418-resistance. Under the optimized conditions (initial inoculum, 40 A600nm AU/mL; pH 6.0; methanol concentration, 3.0%; induction time, 72 h), approximately 16–20 mg protein could be recovered from 1 L of the culture. The purified hS83 had a stronger binding ability towards CTLA4-positive Raji cells than CTLA4-negative ECV304 cells. This finding indicates that the antibody produced by P. pastoris is functional and may be used in immunotherapy for cancer, infection, transplant rejection, and autoimmune diseases.

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This work was supported by National Basic Research Program of China (2009CB522401), Natural Science Fund of China (30572273), Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-06–0790) and Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University.

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Correspondence to Xiaofeng Lu.

Additional information

Huawei Cai and Lihong Chen contributed equally to this work.

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Cai, H., Chen, L., Wan, L. et al. High-level expression of a functional humanized anti-CTLA4 single-chain variable fragment antibody in Pichia pastoris . Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 82, 41–48 (2009).

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  • Single-chain variable fragment antibody
  • Immunotherapy
  • CTLA-4
  • Pichia pastoris