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    Affinity maturation of protein–protein interactions is an important approach in the development of therapeutic proteins such as cytokines. Typical experimental strategies involve targeting the cytokine-receptor interface with combinatorial libraries and then selecting for higher-affinity variants. Mutations to the binding scaffold are usually not considered main drivers for improved affinity. Here we demonstrate that computational design can provide affinity-enhanced variants of interleukin-2 (IL-2) “out of the box” without any requirement for interface engineering. Using a strategy of global IL-2 structural stabilization targeting metastable regions of the three-dimensional structure, rather than the receptor binding interfaces, we computationally designed thermostable IL-2 variants with up to 40-fold higher affinity for IL-2Rβ without any library-based optimization. These IL-2 analogs exhibited CD25-independent activities on T and natural killer (NK) cells both in vitro and in vivo, mimicking the properties of the IL-2 superkine “super-2” that was engineered through yeast surface display [A. M. Levin et al., Nature, 484, 529–533 (2012)]. Structure-guided stabilization of cytokines is a powerful approach to affinity maturation with applications to many cytokine and protein–protein interactions.


    Junming Ren, Alexander E Chu, Kevin M Jude, Lora K Picton, Aris J Kare, Leon Su, Alejandra Montano Romero, Po-Ssu Huang, K Christopher Garcia. Interleukin-2 superkines by computational design. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2022 Mar 22;119(12):e2117401119

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    PMID: 35294290

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