Engineered antibody therapies to counteract mutant huntingtin and related toxic intracellular proteins

Prog Neurobiol. 2012 May;97(2):190-204. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Nov 18.


The engineered antibody approach to Huntington's disease (HD) therapeutics is based on the premise that significantly lowering the levels of the primary misfolded mutant protein will reduce abnormal protein interactions and direct toxic effects of the misfolded huntingtin (HTT). This will in turn reduce the pathologic stress on cells, and normalize intrinsic proteostasis. Intracellular antibodies (intrabodies) are single-chain (scFv) and single-domain (dAb; nanobody) variable fragments that can retain the affinity and specificity of full-length antibodies, but can be selected and engineered as genes. Functionally, they represent a protein-based approach to the problem of aberrant mutant protein folding, post-translational modifications, protein-protein interactions, and aggregation. Several intrabodies that bind on either side of the expanded polyglutamine tract of mutant HTT have been reported to improve the mutant phenotype in cell and organotypic cultures, fruit flies, and mice. Further refinements to the difficult challenges of intraneuronal delivery, cytoplasmic folding, and long-term efficacy are in progress. This review covers published studies and emerging approaches on the choice of targets, selection and engineering methods, gene and protein delivery options, and testing of candidates in cell and animal models. The resultant antibody fragments can be used as direct therapeutics and as target validation/drug discovery tools for HD, while the technology is also applicable to a wide range of neurodegenerative and other diseases that are triggered by toxic proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Huntington Disease* / metabolism
  • Huntington Disease* / therapy
  • Mice
  • Mutant Proteins / immunology*
  • Protein Engineering
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Mutant Proteins