In Vitro Evolution of Antibody Affinity using Libraries with Insertions and Deletions
In Nature, antibodies are capable of recognizing a huge variety of different molecular structures on the surface of antigens. The primary factor that defines the structural diversity of the antibody antigen combining site is the length variation of the complementarity determining region (CDR) loops. Following antigen stimulation, further diversification through the process called somatic hypermutation (SHM) leads to antibodies with improved affinity and specificity. Sequence diversification by SHM is mainly achieved by introduction of point substitutions and a small percentage of insertions/deletions (indels). Although the percentage of indels in affinity matured antibodies is low, probably due to the low rate incorporation of in-frame indels throughout the course of the SHM diversification process, it is likely that the antibody fold can accommodate higher diversity of affinity-enhancing indels. By in vitro evolution, other researchers have sampled either only restricted diversity of indels or extended diversity of insertions only in specific positions chosen based on structural information and natural length variation. The aim of this thesis was to study the impact of random and high diversity indels on antibody affinity by in vitro evolution. New approaches for construction of libraries with in-frame amino acid indels were applied to enable sampling of indels of different lengths across the entire antibody variable domains. I followed two different approaches for construction of indel libraries. Firstly, a recently developed random approach allowed the construction of libraries with random insertions and deletions. Secondly, a semi-random approach was developed to build libraries with different lengths of insertions that could be widely applied in future in vitro antibody affinity maturation campaigns. Libraries constructed by either of these approaches yielded variants with insertions with improved affinity. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that insertions besides offering alternative routes to affinity maturation can also be combined with point substitutions to take advantage of additive effects on function.