Crystallization of a challenging antigen-antibody complex: TLR3 ECD with three noncompeting Fabs

Acta Crystallogr Sect F Struct Biol Cryst Commun. 2011 Oct 1;67(Pt 10):1290-5. doi: 10.1107/S1744309111030983. Epub 2011 Sep 30.


The mechanism of action of therapeutic antibodies can be elucidated from the three-dimensional crystal structures of their complexes with antigens, but crystallization remains the primary bottleneck to structure determination. Methods that resulted in the successful crystallization of TLR3 ECD in complex with Fab fragments from three noncompeting, neutralizing anti-TLR3 antibodies are presented. The crystallization of this 238 kDa complex was achieved through fine purification of the quaternary complex of TLR3 with the three Fab fragments combined with microseed matrix screening and additive screening. Fine purification entailed the application of a very shallow gradient in anion-exchange chromatography, resulting in the resolution of two separate complex peaks which had different crystallizabilities. Subsequent structure determination defined the epitopes of the respective antibodies and revealed a mechanistic hypothesis that is currently under investigation. The results also showed that cocrystallization with multiple noncompeting Fab fragments can be a viable path when an antigen complex with a single Fab proves to be recalcitrant to crystallization.

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / chemistry*
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / isolation & purification
  • Crystallization
  • Extracellular Space / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / chemistry*
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3 / chemistry*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3 / immunology


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • TLR3 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3