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A general method was developed for the discovery of protease-activated binding ligands, or proligands, from combinatorial prodomain libraries displayed on the surface of E. coli. Peptide libraries of candidate prodomains were fused with a matrix metalloprotease-2 substrate linker to a vascular endothelial growth factor-binding peptide and sorted using a two-stage flow cytometry screening procedure to isolate proligands that required protease treatment for binding activity. Prodomains that imparted protease-mediated switching activity were identified after three sorting cycles using two unique library design strategies. The best performing proligand exhibited a 100-fold improvement in apparent binding affinity after exposure to protease. This method may prove useful for developing therapeutic and diagnostic ligands with improved systemic targeting specificity.


Jerry M Thomas, Patrick S Daugherty. Proligands with protease-regulated binding activity identified from cell-displayed prodomain libraries. Protein science : a publication of the Protein Society. 2009 Oct;18(10):2053-9

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PMID: 19653300

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