Directed evolution of a stable scaffold for T-cell receptor engineering

Nat Biotechnol. 2000 Jul;18(7):754-9. doi: 10.1038/77325.


Here we have constructed a single-chain T-cell receptor (scTCR) scaffold with high stability and soluble expression efficiency by directed evolution and yeast surface display. We evolved scTCRs in parallel for either enhanced resistance to thermal denaturation at 46 degrees C, or improved intracellular processing at 37 degrees C, with essentially equivalent results. This indicates that the efficiency of the consecutive kinetic processes of membrane translocation, protein folding, quality control, and vesicular transport can be well predicted by the single thermodynamic parameter of thermal stability. Selected mutations were recombined to create an scTCR scaffold that was stable for over an hour at 65 degrees C, had solubility of over 4 mg ml(-1), and shake-flask expression levels of 7.5 mg l(-1), while retaining specific ligand binding to peptide-major histocompatibility complexes (pMHCs) and bacterial superantigen. These properties are comparable to those for stable single-chain antibodies, but are markedly improved over existing scTCR constructs. Availability of this scaffold allows engineering of high-affinity soluble scTCRs as antigen-specific antagonists of cell-mediated immunity. Moreover, yeast displaying the scTCR formed specific conjugates with antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which could allow development of novel cell-to-cell selection strategies for evolving scTCRs with improved binding to various pMHC ligands in situ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Library
  • Genes, Fungal*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • Temperature
  • Thermodynamics


  • Ligands
  • Peptides
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell