New insights into the altered binding capacity of pharmaceutical-grade human serum albumin: site-specific binding studies by induced circular dichroism spectroscopy

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The ADMET profile of drugs is strongly affected by human serum albumin (HSA), due to its leading role as carrier of poorly soluble compounds in plasma; a critical assessment of the binding capacity of HSA and the evaluation of binding competition between drugs are therefore pivotal for a reliable pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic characterization. In clinical practice, a potential source of impairment in the binding properties of HSA is the use of octanoate and N-acetyltryptophan as stabilizers during the production of pharmaceutical-grade HSA for infusion (i-HSA), which is currently administered in the treatment of a growing range of pathological conditions. The peculiar sensitivity of circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy towards the stereochemical features of high-affinity binding events is herein exploited to achieve a site-specific assessment of the effect of stabilizers on the binding properties of i-HSA. The binding affinity and capacity of fatty-acid-free HSA towards site-selective induced circular dichroism (ICD) markers for the three high-affinity binding sites of HSA was compared to that of i-HSA submitted to ultrafiltration and dialysis to remove both stabilizers. Results showed a considerable impairment of the binding capacity of i-HSA at site II and a relatively lower influence on the binding properties of site I. Ultrafiltration proved to be ineffective in depleting octanoate, while the proposed dialysis protocol, which involves a pH-induced reversible unfolding of the protein, resulted in a total clearance of both stabilizers, confirmed by the full restoration of the binding properties of HSA at all binding sites. The outcomes of this study proved that CD spectroscopy is a suitable technique to evaluate the binding properties of i-HSA, ensuring an assessment of the availability of the binding sites and the possibility of monitoring the clearance of stabilizers. Eventually, the proposed method for their depletion might constitute a connection bridge between albumin in vitro studies and its clinical applications.Graphical abstractHighlightsThe binding capacity of pharmaceutical-grade HSA was assessed by CD spectroscopy.Binding parameters (Symbol, Symbol) were determined for site-specific ICD markers.The binding properties of HSA at site I and site II resulted affected by octanoate.Full depletion of stabilizers was achieved by dialysis involving HSA unfolding.CD analysis proved ideal to monitor the availability of the binding sites of HSA.

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