Recombinant antibody engineering enables reversible binding for continuous protein biosensing

Christian Fercher, Martina L. Jones, Stephen M. Mahler, Simon R. Corrie

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Engineering antibodies to improve target specificity, reduce detection limits, or introduce novel functionality is an important research area for biosensor development. While various affinity biosensors have been developed to generate an output signal upon varying analyte concentrations, reversible and continuous protein monitoring in complex biological samples remains challenging. Herein, we explore the concept of directed evolution to modulate dissociation kinetics of a high affinity anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) single-chain variable antibody fragment (scFv) to enable continuous protein sensing in a label-free binding assay. A mutant scFv library was generated from the wild type (WT) fragment via targeted permutation of four residues in the antibody-antigen-binding interface. A single round of phage display biopanning complemented with high-throughput screening methods then permitted isolation of a specific binder with fast reaction kinetics. We were able to obtain ∼30 times faster dissociation rates when compared to the WT without appreciably affecting overall affinity and specificity by targeting a single paratope that is known to contribute to the binding interaction. Suitability of a resulting mutant fragment to sense varying antigen concentrations in continuous mode was demonstrated in a modified label-free binding assay, achieving low nanomolar detection limits (KD = 8.39 nM). We also confirmed these results using an independent detection mechanism developed previously by our group, incorporating a polarity-dependent fluorescent dye into the scFv and reading out EGFR binding based on fluorescence wavelength shifts. In future, this generic approach could be employed to generate improved or novel binders for proteins of interest, ready for deployment in a broad range of assay platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764–776
Number of pages13
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021


  • Antibody engineering
  • Continuous biosensing
  • Label-free
  • Mutagenesis
  • Unnatural amino acid

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