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Cathepsin B (CTSB) is an abundant cysteine protease that functions in both endolysosomal compartments and extracellular regions. A considerable number of preclinical and clinical studies indicate that CTSB is implicated in many human diseases. Expression levels and activity of CTSB significantly correlate with disease progression and severity. Current inhibitors of CTSB are lack of adequate specificity and pharmacological activities. Through structure-guided rational design, we hereby designed and generated a humanized antibody inhibitor targeting human CTSB. This was achieved by genetically fusing the propeptide of procathepsin B, a naturally occurring inhibitor of CTSB, into heavy chain complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3H) of Herceptin that is used in the clinic for the treatment of breast cancer. The resulting antibody-propeptide fusion displayed high specificity for inhibiting CTSB proteolytic activity at nanomolar levels. Pharmacokinetic studies in mice revealed a plasma half-life of approximately 42 h for this anti-CTSB antibody inhibitor, comparable to that of the parental Herceptin scaffold. This study demonstrates a new approach for the efficient generation of humanized antibody inhibitors with high potency and specificity for human CTSB, which may be extended to develop antibody inhibitors against other disease relevant cathepsin proteases.


Zhefu Dai, Qinqin Cheng, Yong Zhang. Rational Design of a Humanized Antibody Inhibitor of Cathepsin B. Biochemistry. 2020 Apr 14;59(14):1420-1427

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PMID: 32212642

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