Alternative binding proteins: Biological activity and therapeutic potential of cystine-knot miniproteins

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Cystine-knot miniproteins are members of a large family of small proteins that are defined by a common structural scaffold which is stabilized by three intramolecular disulfide bonds. Cystine-knot miniproteins display a broad spectrum of therapeutically useful natural biological activities and several family members are marketed as therapeutics or are in clinical development. Because of their extraordinary intrinsic chemical and proteolytic stability they provide promising scaffolds for the introduction of therapeutically relevant functionalities. Several successful engineering efforts have been reported to generate miniproteins with novel activities by rational design via functional loop grafting or by directed evolution via screening of scaffold-constrained random libraries. Owing to their small size they are amenable to recombinant as well as to chemical routes of synthesis, which opens up new avenues in optimizing biological activity, specificity and bioavailability by site-specific modification, introduction of non-natural amino acids or chemical conjugation.

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