Novel peptide linkers for highly potent antibody-auristatin conjugate

Bioconjug Chem. 2008 Oct;19(10):1960-3. doi: 10.1021/bc800289a. Epub 2008 Sep 20.


Auristatins are highly potent antimitotic agents that have received considerable attention because of their activities when targeted to tumor cells in the form of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Our lead agent, SGN-35, consists of the cAC10 antibody linked to the N-terminal amino acid of monomethylauristatin E (MMAE) via a valine-citrulline p-aminobenzylcarbamate (val-cit-PABC) linker that is cleaved by intracellular proteases such as cathepsin B. More recently, we developed an auristatin F (AF) derivative monomethylauristatin F (MMAF), which unlike MMAE contains the amino acid phenylalanine at the C-terminal position. Because of the negatively charged C-terminal residue, the potency of AF and MMAF is impaired. However, their ability to kill target cells is greatly enhanced through facilitated cellular uptake by internalizing mAbs. Here, we explore the effects of linker technology on AF-based ADC potency, activity, and tolerability by generating a diverse set of dipeptide linkers between the C-terminal residue and the mAb carrier. The resulting ADCs differed widely in activity, with some having significantly improved therapeutic indices compared to the original mAb-Val-Cit-PABC-MMAF conjugate. The therapeutic index was increased yet further by generating dipeptide-based ADCs utilizing new auristatins with methionine or tryptophan as the C-terminal drug residue. These results demonstrate that manipulation of the C-terminal peptide sequence used to attach auristatins to the mAb carrier can lead to highly potent and specific conjugates with greatly improved therapeutic windows.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / metabolism*
  • Antimitotic Agents / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoconjugates / metabolism*
  • Immunoconjugates / pharmacology*
  • Immunoconjugates / toxicity
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism*


  • Antibodies
  • Antimitotic Agents
  • Immunoconjugates
  • Oligopeptides