This review discusses multivalency in the context of drug discovery, specifically the discovery of new diagnostic imaging and related agents. The aim is to draw attention to the powerful role that multivalency plays throughout research involving molecular biology, in general, and much of biochemically targeted contrast agent research, in particular. Two examples from the author's laboratory are described. We created small (approximately 5 kDa) peptide 'dimers' composed of two different, chemically linked peptides. The monomer peptides both bound to the same target protein with K(d) approximately 100 s nM, while the heterodimers had sub-nM K(d) values. Biological activity was evident in the heterodimers where none or very little existed in homodimers, monomers or monomer mixtures. Two different tyrosine kinases (KDR and C-Met) and four peptide families produced consistent results: multivalent heterodimers were uniquely different. The second example begins with making two micron ultrasound bubbles coated with the peptide, TKPPR (a Tuftsin antagonist) as a negative control for bubbles targeted with angiogenesis target-binding peptides. Unexpected binding of a 'negative' control, (TKPPR)-targeted bubble to endothelial cells expressing angiogenesis targets, led to the surprising result that TKPPR, only when multimerized, binds avidly, specifically and actively to neuropilin-1, a VEGF co-receptor. VEGF is the primary stimulator of angiogenesis. Tuftsin is a small peptide (TKPR) derived from IgG that binds to macrophages during inflammation, and has been studied for over 30 years. The receptor has never been cloned. The results led to new conclusions about Tuftsin, neuropilin-1 and the purpose, up to now unknown, of exon 8 in VEGF. Multivalency can be used rationally to solve practical problems in drug discovery. When targeting larger structures, multivalency is frequently unavoidable, and can lead to unpredictable and useful biochemical information, as well as to new drug candidates.
Copyright 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.