Masloh S, Chevrel A, Culot M, Perrocheau A, Kalia YN., Frehel S, Gaussin R, Gosselet F, Huet S, Zeisser Labouebe M, Scapozza L.
Enhancing Oral Delivery of Biologics: A Non-Competitive and Cross-Reactive Anti-Leptin Receptor Nanofitin Demonstrates a Gut-Crossing Capacity in an Ex Vivo Porcine Intestinal Model

Biotherapeutics exhibit high efficacy in targeted therapy, but their oral delivery is impeded by the harsh conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and limited intestinal absorption. This article presents a strategy to overcome the challenges of poor intestinal permeability by using a protein shuttle that specifically binds to an intestinal target, the leptin receptor (LepR), and exploiting its capacity to perform a receptor-mediated transport. Our proof-of-concept study focuses on the characterization and transport of robust affinity proteins, known as Nanofitins, across an ex vivo porcine intestinal model. We describe the potential to deliver biologically active molecules across the mucosa by fusing them with the Nanofitin 1-F08 targeting the LepR. This particular Nanofitin was selected for its absence of competition with leptin, its cross-reactivity with LepR from human, mouse, and pig hosts, and its shuttle capability associated with its ability to induce a receptor-mediated transport. This study paves the way for future in vivo demonstration of a safe and efficient oral-to-systemic delivery of targeted therapies.

Pharmaceutics 2024, 16(1), 116

Learn more about Oral-to-systemic delivery here.

Huet S, Zeisser Labouebe M, Castro R, Jacquot P, Pedrault J, Viollet S, Van Simaeys G, Doumont G, Larbanoix L, Zindy E, E. Cunha A, Scapozza L, Cinier M.
Targeted Nanofitin-drug Conjugates Achieve Efficient Tumor Delivery and Therapeutic Effect in an EGFRpos Mouse Xenograft Model

Adjusting the molecular size, the valency and the pharmacokinetics of drug conjugates are as many leverages to improve their therapeutic window, notably by affecting tumor penetration, renal clearance, and short systemic exposure. In that regard, small tumor-targeting ligands are gaining attention. In this study, we demonstrate the benefits of the small Nanofitin alternative scaffolds (7 kDa) as selective tumor-targeting modules for the generation of drug conjugates, focusing on Nanofitins B10 and D8 directed against the EGFR. Owing to their small size and monovalent format, the two Nanofitins displayed a fast and deep tumor penetration in EGFR-positive A431 xenografts in BALB/c nude mice after intravenous administration, yielding to a targeting of respectively 67.9% ± 14.1 and 98.9% ± 0.7 of the tumor cells as demonstrated by IHC. Conjugation with the monomethyl auristatin E toxin provided homogeneous Nanofitin-drug conjugates, with an overall yield of ≥97%, for in vivo assessment in a curative xenograft model using bioluminescent, EGFR-positive, A431 cells in BALB/c nude mice. Internalization was found critical for efficient release of the toxin. Hence, the intravenous administration of the D8-based construct showed significant antitumor effect in vivo as determined by monitoring tumor volumes and bioluminescence levels over 2 months.

Mol Cancer Ther (2023) 22 (11): 1343–1351.

Learn more about Nanofitin-Drug Conjugates here.

Viollet S, Enouf E, Picot J, Noël L, Huet S, Le Pennec D, Sécher T, Heuzé-Vourc’h N, Kitten O, Cinier M.
Inhalable Nanofitin demonstrates high neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 virus via direct application in respiratory tract

Nanofitins are small and hyperthermostable alternative protein scaffolds that display physicochemical properties making them suitable for the development of topical therapeutics, notably for the treatment of pulmonary infectious diseases. Local administration of biologics to the lungs involves a particularly stressful step of nebulization that is poorly tolerated by most antibodies, which limits their application by this delivery route. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we generated anti-SARS-CoV-2 monomeric Nanofitins of high specificity for the spike protein. Hit Nanofitin candidates were identified based on their binding properties with punctual spike mutants and assembled into a linear multimeric construction constituting of four different Nanofitins, allowing the generation of a highly potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 molecule. The therapeutic efficacy of the multimeric assembly was demonstrated both in in vitro and in vivo models. Interestingly, the neutralization mechanism of the multimeric construction seems to involve a particular conformation switch of the spike trimer. In addition, we reported the stability and the conserved activity of the tetrameric construction after nebulization. This advantageous developability feature for pulmonary administration associated with the ease of assembly, as well as the fast generation process position the Nanofitin technology as a potential therapeutic solution for emerging infectious diseases.

Molecular Therapy Vol. 31 No 10 October 2023

Learn more about pulmonary delivered, multispecific anti-infectious Nanofitins here.

Jacquot P, Muñoz-Garcia J, Fleury M, Cochonneau D, Gaussin R, Enouf E, Roze C, Ollivier E, Cinier M, Heymann D.
Engineering of a Bispecific Nanofitin with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitory Activity Conditioned by the Cross-Arm Binding to EGFR and PDL1

Re-education of the tumor microenvironment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) has provided the most significant advancement in cancer management, with impressive efficacy and durable response reported. However, low response rates and a high frequency of immune-related adverse events (irAEs) remain associated with ICI therapies. The latter can be linked to their high affinity and avidity for their target that fosters on-target/off-tumor binding and subsequent breaking of immune self-tolerance in normal tissues. Many multispecific protein formats have been proposed to increase the tumor cell’s selectivity of ICI therapies. In this study, we explored the engineering of a bispecific Nanofitin by the fusion of an anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anti-programmed cell death ligand 1 (PDL1) Nanofitin modules. While lowering the affinity of the Nanofitin modules for their respective target, the fusion enables the simultaneous engagement of EGFR and PDL1, which translates into a selective binding to tumor cells co-expressing EGFR and PDL1 only. We demonstrated that affinity-attenuated bispecific Nanofitin could elicit PDL1 blockade exclusively in an EGFR-directed manner. Overall, the data collected highlight the potential of this approach to enhance the selectivity and safety of PDL1 checkpoint inhibition.

Biomolecules 2023, 13(4), 636

Learn more about Nanofitins applied to oncology here.

Michot N, Guyochin A, Cinier M, Savignard C, Kitten O, Pascual MH, Pouzieux S, Ozoux ML, Verdier P, Vicat P, Dumas J.
Albumin binding Nanofitins, a new scaffold to extend half-life of biologics – a case study with exenatide peptide

A new strategy of peptide half-life extension has been evaluated. We investigated libraries of a small and very stable protein scaffold called Nanofitin, capable of high affinity for protein targets. We have identified Nanofitins targeting Human and mouse Serum Albumin, which could significantly improve the pharmacokinetics of an active associated peptide, mobilizing the patient’s own albumin without external source. To demonstrate the impact of this approach on half-life extension, a genetic fusion of an Exenatide peptide with an Albumin Binding Nanofitin (ABNF) was performed. Specific activity of Exenatide-ABNF was measured and unaffected by the fusion. In vivo mice results provided convincing data (t½ of 8 min for Exenatide peptide compared to 20 h for Exenatide-ABNF) with sustained pharmacological activity over 3 days. This study constitutes a proof-of-concept of in vivo half-life extension of a biologic using an ABNF. Besides, the absence of cysteine in the Nanofitin scaffold, which is therefore devoid of structuring disulfide bonds, allows manufacturing in microbial cost effective systems.

Peptides. 2022 Feb 9;152:170760.

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Garlich J, Cinier M, Chevrel A, Perrocheau A, Eyerman D.J, Orme M, Kitten O, Scheibler L

Discovery of APL-1030, a Novel, High-Affinity Nanofitin Inhibitor of C3-Mediated Complement Activation

Abstract: Uncontrolled complement activation contributes to multiple immune pathologies. Although synthetic compstatin derivatives targeting C3 and C3b are robust inhibitors of complement activation, their physicochemical and molecular properties may limit access to specific organs, development of bifunctional moieties, and therapeutic applications requiring transgenic expression. Complementtargeting therapeutics containing only natural amino acids could enable multifunctional pharmacology, gene therapies, and targeted delivery for underserved diseases. A Nanofitin library of hyperthermophilic protein scaffolds was screened using ribosome display for C3/C3b-targeting clonesmimicking compstatin pharmacology. APL-1030, a recombinant 64-residue Nanofitin, emerged as the lead candidate. APL-1030 is thermostable, binds C3 (KD, 1.59 nM) and C3b (KD, 1.11 nM), and inhibits complement activation via classical (IC50 = 110.8 nM) and alternative (IC50 = 291.3 nM) pathways in Wieslab assays. Pharmacologic activity (determined by alternative pathway inhibition) was limited to primate species of tested sera. C3b-binding sites of APL-1030 and compstatin were shown to overlap by X-ray crystallography of C3b-bound APL-1030. APL-1030 is a novel, high-affinity inhibitor of primate C3-mediated complement activation developed from natural amino acids on the hyperthermophilic Nanofitin platform. Its properties may support novel drug candidates, enabling bifunctional moieties, gene therapy, and tissue-targeted C3 pharmacologics for diseases with high unmet need.

Biomolecules 2022, 12, 432.

Learn more about Nanofitins as API here.

Marcion G, Hermetet F, Neiers F, Uyanik B, Dondaine L, Dias A, Da Costa L, Moreau M, Bellaye PS, Collin B, Gobbo J, Briand L, Seigneuric R, Kitten O, Cinier M, Garrido C
Nanofitins targeting heat shock protein 110: an innovative immunotherapeutic modality in cancer

The presence of an inactivating HSP110 mutation in colorectal cancers has been correlated with an excellent prognosis and with the ability of HSP110 to favor the formation of tolerogenic
(M2-like) macrophages. These clinical and experimental results suggest a potentially powerful new strategy against colorectal cancer: the inhibition of HSP110. In this work, as an alternative to neutralizing antibodies, Nanofitins (scaffold ~7 kDa-proteins) targeting HSP110 were isolated from the screening of a synthetic Nanofitin library, and their capacity to bind (immunoprecipitation, biolayer interferometry) and to inhibit HSP110 was analyzed in vitro
and in vivo. Three Nanofitins were found to inhibit HSP110 chaperone activity. Interestingly, they share a high degree of homology in their variable domain and target the peptide-binding domain of HSP110. In vitro, they inhibited the ability of HSP110 to favor M2-like macrophages. The Nanofitin with the highest affinity, A-C2, was studied in the CT26 colorectal cancer mice model. Our PET/Scan experiments demonstrate that A-C2 may localized within the tumor area, in accord with the reported HSP110 abundance in the tumor microenvironment. A-C2 treatment reduced tumor growth, and was associated with an increase in immune cells infiltrating the tumor and particularly cytotoxic macrophages. These results were confirmed in a chicken chorioallantoic membrane tumor model. Finally, we showed the complementarity
between A-C2 and an anti-PD-L1 strategy in the in vivo and in ovo tumor models. Altogether, Nanofitins appear to be promising new immunotherapeutic lead compounds.

International Journal of Cancer 2021

Learn more about Nanofitins as immunotherapeutic modalities in cancer here.

Goux M, Becker G, Gorré H, Dammicco S, Desselle A, Egrise D, Leroi N, Lallemand F, Bahri MA, Doumont G, Plenevaux A, Cinier M, Luxen A.
Nanofitin as a new molecular imaging agent for diagnosis of EGFR overexpressing tumors

Epidermal growth-factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in cell growth and proliferation and is over-expressed in malignant tissues. Although anti-EGFR-based immunotherapy became a standard of care for patients with EGFR-positive tumors, this strategy of addressing cancer tumors by targeting EGFR with monoclonal antibodies is less-developed for patient diagnostic and monitoring. Indeed, antibodies exhibit a slow blood clearance, which is detrimental for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. New molecular probes are proposed to overcome such limitations for patient monitoring, making use of low-molecular-weight protein scaffolds as alternatives to antibodies, such as Nanofitins with better pharmacokinetic profiles. Anti-EGFR Nanofitin B10 was reformatted by genetic engineering to exhibit a unique cysteine moiety at its C-terminus, which allows the development of a fast and site-specific radiolabeling procedure with 18F-4-fluorobenzamido-N-ethylamino-maleimide (18F-FBEM). The in vivo tumor targeting and imaging profile of the anti-EGFR Cys-B10 Nanofitin was investigated in a double-tumor xenograft model by static small-animal PET at 2 h after tail-vein injection of the radiolabeled Nanofitin 18F-FBEM-Cys-B10. The image showed that the EGFR-positive tumor (A431) is clearly delineated in comparison to the EGFR-negative tumor (H520) with a significant tumor-to-background contrast. 18F-FBEM-Cys-B10 demonstrated a significantly higher retention in A431 tumors than in H520 tumors at 2.5 h post-injection with a A431-to-H520 uptake ratio of 2.53 ± 0.18 and a tumor-to-blood ratio of 4.55 ± 0.63. This study provides the first report of Nanofitin scaffold used as a targeted PET radiotracer for in vivo imaging of EGFR-positive tumor, with the anti-EGFR B10 Nanofitin used as proof-of-concept. The fast generation of specific Nanofitins via a fully in vitro selection process, together with the excellent imaging features of the Nanofitin scaffold, could facilitate the development of valuable PET-based companion diagnostics.

Bioconjug Chem. 2017 Sep 20;28(9):2361-2371.

Learn more about Nanofitins in oncology applications here.

Huet S, Gorré H, Perrocheau A, Picot J, Cinier M.
Use of the Nanofitin Alternative Scaffold as a GFP-Ready Fusion Tag

With the continuous diversification of recombinant DNA technologies, the possibilities for new tailor-made protein engineering have extended on an on-going basis. Among these strategies, the use of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a fusion domain has been widely adopted for cellular imaging and protein localization. Following the lead of the direct head-to-tail fusion of GFP, we proposed to provide additional features to recombinant proteins by genetic fusion of artificially derived binders. Thus, we reported a GFP-ready fusion tag consisting of a small and robust fusion-friendly anti-GFP Nanofitin binding domain as a proof-of-concept. While limiting steric effects on the carrier, the GFP-ready tag allows the capture of GFP or its blue (BFP), cyan (CFP) and yellow (YFP) alternatives. Here, we described the generation of the GFP-ready tag from the selection of a Nanofitin variant binding to the GFP and its spectral variants with a nanomolar affinity, while displaying a remarkable folding stability, as demonstrated by its full resistance upon thermal sterilization process or the full chemical synthesis of Nanofitins. To illustrate the potential of the Nanofitin-based tag as a fusion partner, we compared the expression level in Escherichia coli and activity profile of recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) constructs, fused to a SUMO or GFP-ready tag. Very similar expression levels were found with the two fusion technologies. Both domains of the GFP-ready tagged TNFα were proved fully active in ELISA and interferometry binding assays, allowing the simultaneous capture by an anti-TNFα antibody and binding to the GFP, and its spectral mutants. The GFP-ready tag was also shown inert in a L929 cell based assay, demonstrating the potent TNFα mediated apoptosis induction by the GFP-ready tagged TNFα. Eventually, we proposed the GFP-ready tag as a versatile capture and labeling system in addition to expected applications of anti-GFP Nanofitins (as illustrated with previously described state-of-the-art anti-GFP binders applied to living cells and in vitro applications). Through a single fusion domain, the GFP-ready tagged proteins benefit from subsequent customization within a wide range of fluorescence spectra upon indirect binding of a chosen GFP variant.

PLoS One. 2015;10: e0142304.

Learn more about Nanofitins as cargo here.

Cinier M, Petit M, Pecorari F, Talham DR, Bujoli B, Tellier C.
Engineering of a phosphorylatable tag for specific protein binding on zirconium phosphonate based microarrays

A phosphorylatable tag was designed and fused at the C-terminal end of proteins, which allowed efficient and oriented immobilization of capture proteins on glass substrates coated with a zirconium phosphonate monolayer. The concept is demonstrated using Nanofitin directed against lysozyme. This peptide tag (DSDSSSEDE) contains four serines in an acidic environment, which favored its in vitro phosphorylation by casein kinase II. The resulting phosphate cluster at the C-terminal end of the protein provided a specific, irreversible, and multipoint attachment to the zirconium surface. In a microarray format, the high surface coverage led to high fluorescence signal after incubation with Alexa Fluor 647 labeled lysozyme. The detection sensitivity of the microarray for the labeled target was below 50 pM, owing to the exceptionally low background staining, which resulted in high fluorescence signal to noise ratios. The performance of this new anchoring strategy using a zirconium phosphonate modified surface compares favorably with that of other types of microarray substrates, such as nitrocellulose-based or epoxide slides, which bind proteins in a nonoriented way.

Journal of biological inorganic chemistry; 2012 Mar;17(3):399-407

Learn more about Nanofitins conjugates here.

Miranda FF, Brient-Litzler E, Zidane N, Pecorari F, Bedouelle H
Reagentless fluorescent biosensors from artificial families of antigen binding proteins

Antibodies and artificial families of antigen binding proteins (AgBP) are constituted by a connected set of hypervariable (or randomized) residue positions, supported by a constant polypeptide backbone. The residues that form the binding site for a given antigen, are selected among the hypervariable residues. We showed that it is possible to transform any AgBP of these families into a reagentless fluorescent biosensor, specific of the target antigen, simply by coupling a solvatochromic fluorophore to one of the hypervariable residues that have little or no importance for the interaction with the antigen, after changing this residue into cysteine by mutagenesis. We validated this approach with a DARPin (Designed Ankyrin Repeat Protein) and a Nanofitin (also known as Affitin) with high success rates. Reagentless fluorescent biosensors recognize their antigen in an immediate, quantitative, selective and specific way, without any manipulation of the sample to analyze or addition of reagent.

Biosensor & Bioelectronics; 2011 Jun 15;26(10):4184-90

Cinier M, Petit M, Williams MN, Fabre RM, Pecorari F, Talham DR, Bujoli B, Tellier C
Bisphosphonate adaptors for specific protein binding on zirconium phosphonate-based microarrays

Two bisphosphonate adaptors were designed to immobilize histidine-tagged proteins onto glass substrates coated with a zirconium phosphonate monolayer, allowing efficient and oriented immobilization of capture proteins, affitins directed to lysozyme, on a microarray format. These bifunctional adaptors contain two phosphonic acid anchors at one extremity and either one nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) or two NTA groups at the other. The phosphonate groups provide a stable bond to the zirconium interface by multipoint attachment and allow high density of surface coverage of the linkers as revealed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Reversible high-density capture of histidine-tagged proteins is shown by real-time surface plasmon resonance enhanced ellipsometry and in a microarray format using fluorescence detection of AlexaFluor 647-labeled target protein. The detection sensitivity of the microarray for the target protein was below 1 nM, despite the monolayer arrangement of the probes, due to very low background staining, which allows high fluorescent signal-to-noise ratio. The performance of these Ni-NTA-modified zirconium phosphonate coated slides compared favorably to other types of microarray substrates, including slides with a nitrocellulose-based matrix, epoxide slides, and epoxide slides functionalized with Ni-NTA groups. This immobilization strategy has a large potential to fix any histidine-tagged proteins on zirconium or titanium ion surfaces.

Bioconjugate Chemistry; 2009 Dec;20(12):2270-7

Buddelmeijer N, Krehenbrink M, Pecorari F, Pugsley AP.
Type II secretion system secretin PulD localizes in clusters in the Escherichia coli outer membrane

The cellular localization of a chimera formed by fusing a monomeric red fluorescent protein to the C terminus of the Klebsiella oxytoca type II secretion system outer membrane secretin PulD (PulD-mCherry) in Escherichia coli was determined in vivo by fluorescence microscopy. Like PulD, PulD-mCherry formed sodium dodecyl sulfate- and heat-resistant multimers and was functional in pullulanase secretion. Chromosome-encoded PulD-mCherry formed fluorescent foci on the periphery of the cell in the presence of high (plasmid-encoded) levels of its cognate chaperone, the pilotin PulS. Subcellular fractionation demonstrated that the chimera was located exclusively in the outer membrane under these circumstances. A similar localization pattern was observed by fluorescence microscopy of fixed cells treated with green fluorescent protein-tagged affitin, which binds with high affinity to an epitope in the N-terminal region of PulD. At lower levels of (chromosome-encoded) PulS, PulD-mCherry was less stable, was located mainly in the inner membrane, from which it could not be solubilized with urea, and did not induce the phage shock response, unlike PulD in the absence of PulS. The fluorescence pattern of PulD-mCherry under these conditions was similar to that observed when PulS levels were high. The complete absence of PulS caused the appearance of bright and almost exclusively polar fluorescent foci.

Journal of Bacteriology; 2009 Jan;191(1):161-8

Krehenbrink M, Chami M, Guilvout I, Alzari PM, Pecorari F, Pugsley AP
Artificial binding proteins (Affitins) as probes for conformational changes in secretin PulD

The DNA-binding protein Sac7d was previously modified to bind with high affinity to the N domain of the outer membrane secretin PulD from the bacterium Klebsiella oxytoca. Here, we show that binding of the Sac7d derivatives (affitins) to PulD is sensitive to conformational changes caused by denaturant and by the zwitterionic detergent Zwittergent 3-14 routinely used to extract secretins from outer membranes. This sensitivity to the conformational state of PulD allowed us to use the affitins as probes for the native structure of PulD and to devise protocols for examining in vitro synthesized protein in nonionic detergent and for the affinity purification of native PulD using affitins as ligands. When fused to periplasmic PhoA, three affitins inhibited PulD multimerization in vivo and caused loss of function. In two cases, this was likely to be due to dimerization of the affitin by the bound PhoA, as the effect was absent when the affitins were fused to monomeric MalE. In the third case, the MalE and PhoA moieties probably interfered sterically with PulD protomer interactions and, thereby, inhibited multimerization. None of the affitins tested interacted with PulD at sites of protomer interaction or blocked the secretin channel through which exoproteins cross the outer membrane in the Type II secretion pathway of which PulD is a key component.

Journal of Molecular Biology; 2008 Nov 28;383(5):1058-68

Mouratou B, Schaeffer F, Guilvout I, Tello-Manigne D, Pugsley AP, Alzari PM, Pecorari F
Remodeling a DNA-binding protein as a specific in vivo inhibitor of bacterial secretin PulD

We engineered a class of proteins that binds selected polypeptides with high specificity and affinity. Use of the protein scaffold of Sac7d, belonging to a protein family that binds various ligands, overcomes limitations inherent in the use of antibodies as intracellular inhibitors: it lacks disulfide bridges, is small and stable, and can be produced in large amounts. An in vitro combinatorial/selection approach generated specific, high-affinity (up to 140 pM) binders against bacterial outer membrane secretin PulD. When exported to the Escherichia coli periplasm, they inhibited PulD oligomerization, thereby blocking the type II secretion pathway of which PulD is part. Thus, high-affinity inhibitors of protein function can be derived from Sac7d and can be exported to, and function in, a cell compartment other than that in which they are produced.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA. 2007 Nov 13;104(46):17983