Antibody Binding Selectivity: Alternative Sets of Antigen Residues Entail High-Affinity Recognition

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 2;10(12):e0143374. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143374. eCollection 2015.


Understanding the relationship between protein sequence and molecular recognition selectivity remains a major challenge. The antibody fragment scFv1F4 recognizes with sub nM affinity a decapeptide (sequence 6TAMFQDPQER15) derived from the N-terminal end of human papilloma virus E6 oncoprotein. Using this decapeptide as antigen, we had previously shown that only the wild type amino-acid or conservative replacements were allowed at positions 9 to 12 and 15 of the peptide, indicating a strong binding selectivity. Nevertheless phenylalanine (F) was equally well tolerated as the wild type glutamine (Q) at position 13, while all other amino acids led to weaker scFv binding. The interfaces of complexes involving either Q or F are expected to diverge, due to the different physico-chemistry of these residues. This would imply that high-affinity binding can be achieved through distinct interfacial geometries. In order to investigate this point, we disrupted the scFv-peptide interface by modifying one or several peptide positions. We then analyzed the effect on binding of amino acid changes at the remaining positions, an altered susceptibility being indicative of an altered role in complex formation. The 23 starting variants analyzed contained replacements whose effects on scFv1F4 binding ranged from minor to drastic. A permutation analysis (effect of replacing each peptide position by all other amino acids except cysteine) was carried out on the 23 variants using the PEPperCHIP® Platform technology. A comparison of their permutation patterns with that of the wild type peptide indicated that starting replacements at position 11, 12 or 13 modified the tolerance to amino-acid changes at the other two positions. The interdependence between the three positions was confirmed by SPR (Biacore® technology). Our data demonstrate that binding selectivity does not preclude the existence of alternative high-affinity recognition modes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antibody Specificity*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology*
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / immunology*


  • E6 protein, Human papillomavirus type 16
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Single-Chain Antibodies

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the University of Strasbourg (UdS). This work used the platforms of the Grenoble Instruct centre (ISBG; UMS 3518 CNRS-CEA-UJF-EMBL) with support from FRISBI (ANR-10-INSB-05-02) and GRAL (ANR-10-LABX-49-01) within the Grenoble Partnership for Structural Biology (PSB).