Different tissue distribution properties for glycosylation variants of fusion proteins containing the p40 subunit of murine interleukin-12

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Antibody-based fusion proteins are gaining increasing importance for therapeutic applications, but the impact of glycosylation on in vivo biopharmaceutical performance is not always completely understood. In this article, we have analyzed biochemical and pharmaceutical properties of fusion proteins, consisting of the F8 antibody (specific to the EDA domain of fibronectin, a marker of tissue remodeling and of angiogenesis) and of the p40 subunit of interleukin-12, an inhibitor of inflammation. The corresponding fusion protein (F8-IL12p40), which inhibits colitis development in mice, is a glycosylated protein with suboptimal disease targeting properties in vivo. Since the protein was extensively glycosylated, as evidenced by PNGase F treatment and mass spectrometric analysis, we mutated four asparagine residues in various combinations. The corresponding proteins exhibited similar biochemical and antigen-binding properties, but differences in thermal stability and bioactivity. Asparagine mutations did not lead to recovery of disease targeting performance in vivo, as evidenced by quantitative biodistribution studies with radioiodinated protein preparations in tumor-bearing mice. By contrast, an almost complete recovery of targeting was achieved with an enzymatically deglycosylated protein preparation. These findings reinforce the concept that different glycostructures can have an impact on tissue distribution properties.

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