A drawback of targeting soluble antigens such as cytokines or toxins with long-lived antibodies is that such antibodies can prolong the half-life of the target antigen by a "buffering" effect. This has motivated the design of antibodies that bind to target with higher affinity at near neutral pH relative to acidic endosomal pH (~pH 6.0). Such antibodies are expected to release antigen within endosomes following uptake into cells, whereas antibody will be recycled and exocytosed in FcRn-expressing cells. To understand how the pH dependence of antibody-antigen interactions affects intracellular trafficking, we generated three antibodies that bind IL-6 with different pH dependencies in the range pH 6.0-7.4. The behavior of antigen in the presence of these antibodies has been characterized using a combination of fixed and live cell fluorescence microscopy. As the affinity of the antibody:IL-6 interaction at pH 6.0 decreases, an increasing amount of antigen dissociates from FcRn-bound antibody in early and late endosomes, and then enters lysosomes. Segregation of antibody and FcRn from endosomes in tubulovesicular transport carriers (TCs) into the recycling pathway can also be observed in live cells, and the extent of IL-6 association with TCs correlates with increasing affinity of the antibody:IL-6 interaction at acidic pH. These analyses result in an understanding, in spatiotemporal terms, of the effect of pH dependence of antibody-antigen interactions on subcellular trafficking and inform the design of antibodies with optimized binding properties for antigen elimination.
Keywords: antigen buffering; antigen-antibody trafficking; pH-dependent.