Influence of size and charge of unstructured polypeptides on pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of targeted fusion proteins

J Control Release. 2019 Aug 10:307:379-392. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.06.030. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


Alternative non-IgG binding proteins developed for therapy are small in size and, thus, are rapidly cleared from the circulation by renal filtration. To avoid repeated injection or continuous infusion for the maintenance of therapeutic serum concentrations, extensions of unfolded polypeptides have been developed to prolong serum half-life, but systematic, comparative studies investigating the influence of their size and charge on serum half-life, extravasation, tumor localization and excretion mechanisms have so far been lacking. Here we used a high-affinity Designed Ankyrin Repeat Protein (DARPin) targeting the tumor marker epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) in a preclinical tumor xenograft model in mice, and fused it with a series of defined unstructured polypeptides. We used three different sizes of two previously described polypeptides, an uncharged one consisting of only Pro, Ala and Ser (termed PAS) and a charged one consisting of Pro, Ala, Ser, Thr, Gly, Glu (termed XTEN) and performed for the first time a precise comparative localization, distribution and extravasation study. Pharmacokinetic analysis showed a clear linear relationship between hydrodynamic radius and serum half-life across both polypeptides, reaching a half-life of up to 21 h in mice. Tumor uptake was EpCAM-dependent and directly proportional to half-life and size, showing an even tumor penetration for all fusion proteins without unspecific accumulation in non-target tissue. Unexpectedly, charge had no influence on any parameter, neither tumor nor tissue accumulation nor kidney elimination kinetics. Thus, both polypeptide types have a very similar potential for precise half-life modification and tumor targeting.

Keywords: Biodistribution; DARPin; Half-life extension; PASylation; Tumor targeting; XTENylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ankyrin Repeat*
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins