Utilizing combinatorial engineering to develop Tie2 targeting antagonistic angiopoetin-2 ligands as candidates for anti-angiogenesis therapy

Oncotarget. 2017 May 16;8(20):33571-33585. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.16827.


In many human cancers, the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) Tie2 plays important roles in mediating proliferation, survival, migration and angiogenesis. Thus, molecules that could potently inhibit activation of the Tie2 receptor would have a significant impact on cancer therapy. Nevertheless, attempts to develop Tie2-targeted inhibitors have met with little success, and there is currently no FDA-approved therapeutic selectively targeting Tie2. We used a combinatorial protein engineering approach to develop a new generation of angiopoietin (Ang)2-derived Tie2 antagonists as potential cancer therapeutics and as tools to study angiogenesis. The construct for designing a yeast surface display (YSD) library of potential antagonists was an Ang2 binding domain (Ang2-BD) that retains Tie2 binding ability but prevents ligand multimerization and receptor dimerization and activation. This mutant library was then screened by quantitative high-throughput flow cytometric sorting to identify Ang2-BD variants with increased expression, stability and affinity to Tie2. The selected variants were recombinantly expressed and showed high affinity to soluble and cellular Tie2 and strongly inhibited both Tie2 phosphorylation and endothelial capillary tube formation and cell invasion compared to the parental Ang2-BD. The significance of the study lies in the insight it provides into the sequence-structure-function relationships and mechanism of action of the antagonistic Ang mutants. The approach of using a natural protein ligand as a molecular scaffold for engineering high-affinity agents can be applied to other ligands to create functional protein antagonists against additional biomedical targets.

Keywords: angiogenesis; antagonistic activity; directed evolution; protein engineering; protein-protein interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Angiopoietin-2 / chemistry
  • Angiopoietin-2 / metabolism*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Discovery
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Receptor, TIE-2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, TIE-2 / chemistry
  • Receptor, TIE-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, TIE-2 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Angiopoietin-2
  • Ligands
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Receptor, TIE-2